MistraPharma and Waste Water Treatment

Welcome to the WWTP

Welcome to the WWTP

The Board of the MistraPharma project met yesterday at AstraZeneca’s waste water treatment plant (WWTP) in Södertälje.

AstraZeneca WWTP

AstraZeneca WWTP

We had a full day at the WWTP with an ordinary Board meeting where we followed up on the project plan for the MistraPharma initiative in general, but in addition to the general agenda we also focused specifically on the waste water treatment sub-project, led by Professor Jes la Cour Jansen.

Improved waste water treatment technologies is one of 4 main objectives in the MistraPharma project:

1) Identification of pharmaceuticals of environmental concern:
MistraPharma will contribute to identifying the active pharmaceutical ingredients on the Swedish market most likely to cause adverse effects in the aquatic environment. The programme will also generate data on which molecular structure elements that are important for biodegradability of pharmaceutical compounds.

2) Recommendations to improve wastewater treatment technologies:  
MistraPharma will identify and develop wastewater treatment technologies that will help improve the elimination of high-risk pharmaceuticals from waste water treatment plants. Any recommendations to improve waste water treatment will be based on an integrated analysis taking into account what is environmentally motivated, technically feasible and economically realistic.  

3) Improved risk identification strategies:  
MistraPharma will develop new tools for detecting environmental effects of human pharmaceuticals based on the compounds´ expected pharmacological mechanisms or using explorative methods covering a broad range of biological interactions. Based on these methods MistraPharma will propose new approaches to ecotoxicological testing of  pharmaceuticals.

4) Stakeholder communication: 
MistraPharma will ensure that the stakeholders, such as the pharmaceutical industry, national, regional and local authorities, waste water treatment plants and, health care, are actively informed about and given access to the new knowledge and expertise that will enable them to limit the effects of human pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment.

Jes presented the results so far from the research on improved waste water treatment technologies and I am pleased to see that the data generated support conlusions that have previously been made, e.g. in the Stockholm Vatten project on pharmaceutical residues (you can read more about that project on this blog post from Dec 11, 2009). But the data also supports the type of technologies that are applied in industry’s own waste water treatment plants. We know that biofilm reactors are more efficient, and more robust and stable, than active sludge when waste water with pharmaceutical residues is treated. We utilize oxidation/degradation processes such as ozon treatment and chlorine dioxide treatment, and of course activated carbon as a very powerful sorbent. The important knowledge that is being generated by Jes and his coworkes is how these type of techniques can be successfully (and financially defendable) integrated into the existing publicly owned waste water treatment plants. Plants that very often are built around an active sludge process, and plants that generally receives a very complex mixture of contaminents at very low concentrations. One additional difference is of course that the publicly owned treatment plants cannot pre-treat specific waste water flows which is something we very often do in the industry in order to optimize the process.


The MistraPharma project now enters into the final year of the ”Phase 1″ project (2008 to 2011). It will be very interesting to see the general conclusions and list of achievements from this first phase, and I hope Mistra will fund a Phase 2, because there are of course still a number of important issues that need further research!

We closed the day at AstraZeneca by listening to Gisela Holm and Helena Wadsten from AstraZeneca’s SHE unit (Safety, Health and Environment). Gisela discussed Environmental Sustainability Efforts with us, areas such as:

- Green Drug Design

- Green Drug Manufacturing Processes

- Intelligent Environmental Testing and Assessments

- Sustainable Products Packaging

- Minimizing Un-used Medicines

- Data Transparency

- Ecopharmacovigilance

and Helena led the discussion on minimizing environmental impacts in manufacturing, especially from the outsourcing perspective.

It is very promising to see that we are several pharma companies that has started on a Green Journey. Together we will, and especially if good collaborations can be achiened with all relevant stakeholders in society, see impressing changes over time. Please read more about AstraZeneca’s work on responsibility initiatives via the this link, more about Pfizer’s work on Environmental Sustainability via this link, and on the industry collaboration regarding environmental standards, audits and follow-ups when external supply is considered on Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI).


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