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Unique project to reduce pharmaceutical residues in the aquatic environment

In Sweden, the County Administrative Board of Östergötland and Tekniska Verken i Linköping AB, a municipality owned energy and waste management company have together with 13 other organizations received SEK 28 million from the European Union (EU) Baltic Sea Program to reduce pharmaceutical residues in the aquatic environment. The project will identify distribution routes and test new water treatment technologies.

The County Administrative Board’s measurements have shown that pharmaceutical residues are present in fish and water samples, as well as in sludge and effluent from municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). Such residues from medicines and veterinary drugs are also found far out in the Baltic Sea.

In order to achieve the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive, as well as national environmental objectives relating to water and a non-toxic environment, efforts need to be stepped up. Thanks to funds from the EU Baltic Program, the County Administrative Board of Östergötland and Tekniska Verken i Linköping, together with 13 other organizations, can begin a project to reduce the environmental impact of medicines.

Together with experts around the Baltic Sea, we now take a holistic approach to pharmaceuticals and pharma residues and solutions in the Baltic Sea environment. The project is unique in its kind in the world and will contribute to great environmental benefits, said Elisabeth Nilsson, Governor at the County Administrative Board Östergötland.

The Clear Waters from Pharmaceuticals (CWPharma) project tests and evaluates efforts to reduce the spread of pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment, both by cleaning sewage using new treatment technologies and through upstream measures, such as improved management of unused medicines.

Tekniska Verken i Linköping are in the process of installing a full-scale purification process for pharmaceutical residues found in wastewater. Financing from the EU enables careful optimization and evaluation of the ozone treatment method at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Linköping.

The work is in line with the company’s vision of building the world’s most resource-efficient region together by protecting the natural resources of water. As the project will follow up Sweden’s first permanent full-scale plant, we expect to build valuable knowledge that will benefit others, said Anna Lövsén, Business Area Manager Water and Sewage for Tekniska Verken.

The project also includes a survey of medicines and veterinarian pharmaceuticals used by humans and animals. In-depth analyses will be conducted within the Motala river catchment area, including Sweden’s second largest lake, Lake Vättern. Corresponding studies will be conducted in the other Baltic countries.

We will now get better knowledge of where and how pharma residues are spread to the environment. It also helps us to put in place the right counter-measures, said Helene Ek Henning, water ecologist at the County Administrative Board of Östergötland.

About CWPharma

The aim of the main project idea is to support the control of priority and emerging substances, especially pharmaceuticals, and to reduce their impact on the Baltic Sea environment. The project, among others, is planning to deal with the characterization of major sources and pathways of priority and emerging substances to aquatic environments. It also looks into the occurrence of selected priority and emerging pollutants in influents, effluents and sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), and recipients. The project will facilitate development and optimisation of techniques to remove emerging pollutants from wastewater.

The partnership includes: Finnish Environment Institute (FI), Institute of Environmental Protection – National Research Institute (PL), Finnish Medicines Agency (FI), Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology (LV), Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre (LV), Coalition Clean Baltic (SE), County Administrative Board of Östergötland (SE), IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute (SE), Tekniska Verken i Linköping AB (SE), KWB – Berlin Centre of Competence for Water (DE), Aarhus University (DK) and Helsinki Region Environmental Services HSY Water management Wastewater treatment (FI).

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