Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product Removal from Wastewater by Soil Aquifer Treatment for a Sustainable Future

EPA Grant Number: F07A10275
Title: Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product Removal from Wastewater by Soil Aquifer Treatment for a Sustainable Future
Investigators: Onesios, Kathryn Margaret
Institution: The Johns Hopkins University
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: September 1, 2007 through August 1, 2010
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Fellowship - Environmental Engineering , Academic Fellowships


Trace levels of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) not removed in wastewater treatment plants enter surface waters where they have been shown to adversely affect aquatic organisms. Effects on human health, if any, are unknown. This research will examine the role of microorganisms in the removal of PPCPs from treatment plant effluents and the environmental factors that promote or impede PPCP biodegradation. The goal of this project is to elucidate the microbial processes responsible for PPCP removal during the soil aquifer treatment method of water recycling.


The PPCPs that will be included in this study have been determined to be environmentally relevant by previous research at Johns Hopkins University and are from various therapeutic drug classes. First, the effect of primary substrate concentration on PPCP removal will be examined in column studies, as the trace levels of PPCPs are hypothesized to be too low to be used by microorganisms as sole carbon or energy sources. Second, redox conditions, empty bed contact time, shock loading, and temperature will be evaluated for their effects on the microbial communities responsible for PPCP removal. Each of these parameters was chosen for examination because each is a factor that varies in the environment and could play an important role in the failure or success of PPCP removal by soil aquifer treatment. Microbial communities will be studied under the different parameters to understand how environmental changes affect PPCP biodegradation. Finally, molecular techniques will be employed to identify the PPCP biodegradation pathways, and the biofilm structures in which the microorganisms exist will be studied.

Expected Results:

Results from this study are expected to contribute fundamental scientific understanding to the process of PPCP removal from treated wastewater by microorganisms during soil aquifer treatment. Conditions for maximum PPCP removal will be determined so that these micropollutants can be removed effectively when water is recycled by soil aquifer treatment.

Supplemental Keywords:

pharmaceuticals and personal care products, biodegradation, wastewater, micropollutants, soil aquifer treatment, water reuse, environmental engineering,, Scientific Discipline, Waste, Environmental Chemistry, Biochemistry, Bioremediation, contaminated sediments, microbial degradation, biodegradation, bioremediation of soils, contaminant release

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2008
  • 2009
  • Final