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Pharmaceutical compounds are a concern, as they are one of the most serious emerging environmental contaminants and hospital waste water is a major contributor as it discharges pharmaceutical compounds, via its liquid discharges, into municipal wastewater. Conventional waste water treatment systems are not designed to remove these compounds. Consequently, membrane bioreactors (MBRs) have been widely used to remove pharmaceutical compounds from hospital wastewater. This study investigated the pharmaceutical compound removal of a pilot-scale membrane bioreactor system operated under different hydraulic retention times (HRTs 3 and 6 h) for hospital wastewater treatment. Two pharmaceutical compounds, gemfibrozil (GFZ) and trimethoprim (TMP) were selected to be monitored in this study. The MBRs performance provided better removal of organic matters (BOD and COD > 90%) under operating conditions with lower hydraulic retention time. The results showed that prolonged HRT conditions, operated with complete nitrification, achieved greater pharmaceutical compound removal. Removal efficiencies of GFZ, when the HRT was increased from 3 to 6 h, were 10.80%, and 90.10% respectively, whereas the removal efficiency of TMP was found to be slightly increased from 40.79% (HRT 3 h) to 50.23% (HRT 6 h). GFZ tended to be removed by degradation, this was in fact confirmed by using the batch experiment. TMP was found to be adsorbed under an HRT of 3 h and had improved biodegradation after increasing the HRT to 6 h. Optimization of the operating conditions could increase the removal efficiency of pharmaceutical compounds.
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