Enzymatic Wastewater Treatment: An Innovative Technology for Removing Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products

EPA Grant Number: FP917284
Title: Enzymatic Wastewater Treatment: An Innovative Technology for Removing Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products
Investigators: Hoffman, Catherine M
Institution: The University of Texas at Austin
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Science & Technology for Sustainability: Environmental Entrepreneurship


The objective of the proposed research is to develop a sustainable and cost-effective enzymatic treatment technology that removes pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) from municipal wastewater. This research also aims to address important questions about the proposed technology by tracking the fate and transformations of parent PPCP compounds, as well as their oxidation byproducts, throughout the treatment process.


The proposed research will be performed in four major phases. Phase 1 will evaluate two enzymatic treatment configurations for removing PPCPs from municipal wastewater primary effluent. Phase 2 will investigate the efficacy of inexpensive and sustainable mediator sources from food-processing wastes. Phase 3 will evaluate the removal of a mixture of PPCPs, as well as enzyme oxidation byproducts, in a benchscale simulation of enzymatic treatment followed by conventional activated sludge and secondary clarification. Phase 4 will determine the fate of enzyme oxidation byproducts in conventional activated sludge followed by secondary clarification, considering biodegradation and adsorption as potential removal mechanisms.

Expected Results:

Phase 1 is expected to determine an enzymatic treatment configuration that is practical for application in a wastewater treatment plant. Phase 2 is expected to identify an inexpensive and sustainable source of mediators. It is hypothesized that in addition to the removal of parent PPCP compounds from primary effluent, enzyme-catalyzed oxidation byproducts generated will be removed in subsequent biological treatment.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

Successful development and implementation of enzymatic treatment of municipal wastewater could significantly reduce the release of PPCPs into the environment, and consequently reduce their presence in drinking water sources. Thus, not only would the health of aquatic ecosystems be improved, but human exposure to these chemicals through drinking water also would be reduced.

Supplemental Keywords:

PPCPs, wastewater, enzymatic treatment, enzyme-catalyzed oxidation, laccase

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final