Pharmaceutical residues in wastewater



Only a fraction of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) can be removed with traditional technologies, leading to harmful effects on flora, fauna and ultimately human beings.

Medicines such as antibiotics, pain killers, and antiseptics used to sustain health also have detrimental, environmental side effects.

A large portion of consumed drugs has inevitably affected our environment for a long period of time. It is now possible to end the accumulation of micropollutants through effective removal of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API).

In parallel worldwide private and public initiatives are taking action to encourage the current development in neutralizing harmful micropollutant emissions.

Ozonetech is a global engineering company, specializing in implementing the most efficient treatment methods for API removal for municipal wastewater treatment plants and the pharmaceutical industry.

We present our technology, engineering expertise, and consulting services required in order to deliver the world’s most cost-effective and energy efficient solution.


Did you know...

In Sweden, we use more than 1,000 different active substances in about 7,600 different drugs. In addition, there are about the same number of excipients and many kinds of packaging materials.

Most new drugs that are approved for sale in Sweden are new makes of already known and used substances. New substances, however, count every year.


About 100,000 diverse chemicals are registered in the Europe Union (EU). Out of these 100,000, about 30,000 are distributed in large quantities, where each one is distributed in quantities of about one ton per year or more for human health consumption. During production, disposal and after regular use, a substantial portion of these active substances (micropollutants) are inevitably entering the aquatic environment.

are one of the most important classes of emerging contaminants in water treatment processes and has direct impact on the human health and the ecosystem. The sources of pharmaceuticals include livestock residues, hospital discharge, aquaculture and release from domestic and industry wastewater

effluents. Among them, treatment of wastewaters has become increasingly difficult due to several reasons, including:


  • Discharged wastewater contains clusters of micro-pollutants (i.e. pharmaceutical active substance) that are resistant to biological wastewater treatment processes. This is due to the complex molecular structures of these compounds.
  • Stringent regulations on effluent discharge limits


Untreated, pharmaceutical residues promote the emerging problems of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains.



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Large quantities of micropollutants are released directly from hospitals and pharmaceutical production plants in high concentrations. Still the majority of all API residues can be traced to municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Pharmaceutical residues can be treated directly at the source in a containerized solution or turnkey system,
depending on the client need.

On-site treatment of pharmaceutical residues (green) eliminates the need for high-cost transportation and off-site destruction (blue).


Did you know...

Switzerland was the first country in the world to pass a law for treating pharmaceutical residues back in 2016. The grace period is until year 2040. The national budget supports 75 % of the funding while the remaining 25 % will be covered by the municipalities.



A successful full scale advanced treatment system involves proper analysis, technology and services from start to finish. Ozonetech is an ozone based supplier of oxidation technologies and separation systems dedicated to finding the suitable combination of technologies tailored to each facility.

Each and every system leaving our production facility has gone through the same design steps. All steps are carried out by our in-house experts.

Pilot projects. This unique service enables complete customization based on the specific water quality.

CFD. We use computational fluid dynamics to ensure the maximum treatment capacity of oxidation technology.

System design. We customize the complete solution using a number of technologies such as ozone, carbon filtration and advanced oxidation processes (AOP), fine-tuned with CAD.

Manufacturing and quality control.
The designed system is constructed and assembled by Ozonetech. As an original equipment manufacturer, we validate performance and operation before shipping.

Installation. We offer complete installation services when needed and full assistance throughout the process.

Commissioning. As the system has been delivered and installed, we optimize the operation based on local site conditions for a smooth operating experience in order to reach maximum efficiency and lowest possible operating costs.

Example of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for ensuring maximum reaction rates. Our CFD services are one of many key aspects to efficiently designing an API removal system.


Actual containerized expansion system for on-site treatment of micropollutants.

We base each micropollutant removal solution on tailored design and engineering, combining ozone with suitable pre-treatment and polishing steps. Depending on the requirements, we design our systems with up to 100% removal of pharmaceutical residues.

APIs can be neutralized at rapid rates, which accommodates smaller overall system footprints.

All RENA systems are designed with utmost attention to detail and performance, specifically low energy consumption and low maintenance need. Pharmaceutical residues are typically present at nanogram and microgram levels depending on the source. Our most common
designs cover ozone treatment, which degrade micropollutants at a very high rate, followed by carbon filter polishing, or extended ozonation. Our designs allow for treatment costs of less than €0.0065/m3.




All water treatment solutions combining a RENA system and a final polishing step are sized and configured for each specific client and task. With the introduction of O-GAC™, time and cost of replacing the activated carbon is highly reduced.

Our deliveries include all equipment, parts and components - integrated and tested - to supply a fully functioning solution. 

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) with the most effective API adsorption rate is always utilized in Ozonetech’s O-GAC solutions.


Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) units are good alternatives to oxidation based API removal systems, although frequent maintenance must be considered. We have developed a unique
combined oxidation- GAC system which significantly reduces the GAC replacement and backwashing requirements. Each GAC unit is in-house designed to achieve the most optimal combination with regard to power consumption, removal rate and footprint.

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In-house designed pilot-scale tests demonstrated ›99 % removal of paracetamol directly from a pharmaceutical production plant effluent with optimum concentration of ozone dose. One pathway for paracetamol degradation during the treament process with ozone is hydroxyl radical attack on the aromatic ring with subsequent hydroxylation. Pharmaceutical compounds has a reaction rate that is directly dependent on the concentration of active substance present in the mixture. A schematic figure is presented below where the oxidation pathway and a reaction order representation is displayed.



There are different kinds of chemical reactions. The order for any chemical reaction is defined as the reaction rate dependency of the concentration of the reactants. Representative graphs for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd reaction orders are displayed below:

It is important to determine the reaction kinetics in order to scale a full-scale ozone treatment system. Ozonetech offers pilot project services to determine the specific treatment requirements for specific wastewater streams, including pharmaceutical plants and hospitals wastewater. Contact us for more information!


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