Effects of sewer conditions on the degradation of selected illicit drug residues in wastewater

Thai, Phong K., Jiang, Guangming, Gernjak, Wolfgang, Yuan, Zhiguo, Lai, Foon Yin, & Mueller, Jochen F. (2014) Effects of sewer conditions on the degradation of selected illicit drug residues in wastewater. Water Research, 48, pp. 538-547.

View at publisher


The stability of five illicit drug markers in wastewater was tested under different sewer conditions using laboratory-scale sewer reactors. Wastewater was spiked with deuterium labelled isotopes of cocaine, benzoyl ecgonine, methamphetamine, MDMA and 6-acetyl morphine to avoid interference from the native isotopes already present in the wastewater matrix. The sewer reactors were operated at 20 °C and pH 7.5, and wastewater was sampled at 0, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 and 12 h to measure the transformation/degradation of these marker compounds. The results showed that while methamphetamine, MDMA and benzoyl ecgonine were stable in the sewer reactors, cocaine and 6-acetyl morphine degraded quickly. Their degradation rates are significantly higher than the values reportedly measured in wastewater alone (without biofilms). All the degradation processes followed first order kinetics. Benzoyl ecgonine and morphine were also formed from the degradation of cocaine and 6-acetyl morphine, respectively, with stable formation rates throughout the test. These findings suggest that, in sewage epidemiology, it is essential to have relevant information of the sewer system (i.e. type of sewer, hydraulic retention time) in order to accurately back-estimate the consumption of illicit drugs. More research is required to look into detailed sewer conditions (e.g. temperature, pH and ratio of biofilm area to wastewater volume among others) to identify their effects on the fate of illicit drug markers in sewer systems.

Impact and interest:

15 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™
11 citations in Web of Science®

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 89013
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Illicit drugs, Biofilms, Sewage epidemiology, Transformation kinetics
DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2013.10.019
ISSN: 0043-1354
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Chemistry, Physics & Mechanical Engineering
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 14 Oct 2015 01:41
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 02:16

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page