Scope and Objectives

Scope

PharmWat2017 is international multidisciplinary conference aiming at discussing the comprehensive issue of occurrence of pharmaceutical residues in the water environment. This is done by considering the entire pathway of pharmaceutical residues from their source (human use of medicines, agriculture, etc.) as sewage water to waste water treatment plants releasing their effluent to surface waters and groundwater, this water being used as source for drinking water production, ending up with drinking water that may contain pharmaceutical residues. The effect of pharmaceuticals on plant and animal life in aquatic ecosystems is also considered. The diagramme illustrates the pathway and its key elements.

Pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical residues

A new type of pollution in groundwater and surface water – the source for our drinking water production – has been first detected in the early 1990s, namely trace amounts of pharmaceutical residues. Detection of these chemical ingredients was possible by gradual improvement of laboratory analytical methods, leading to detection of constituents undetectable before. The concept of “emerging contaminants or micropollutants“ was invented. In later years trace concentrations of residues of commonly used pharmaceuticals started to be detected in drinking water. A good reason to worry as the quality of drinking water is a powerful determinant of human health.

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Waste water treatment plants

The sewage water is treated in waste water treatment plants (WWTP) before it is discharged to surface waters (rivers, lakes). A part of the surface water infiltrates to groundwater. Conventional WWTP technologies vary greatly in their ability to eliminate pharmaceutical residues from sewage water, implying that the WWTP effluent also contains pharmaceutical residues. The effective elimination is possible only when applying a rather costly tertiary treatment.

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Role of surface water and groundwater in spreading pharmaceuticals ‘pollution‘

Surface water and groundwater are the crucial elements in spreading the ‘pollution‘ by pharmaceuticals in space and time. Obviously, as groundwater velocity is a few orders of magnitude smaller than river flow velocity, the ‘pollution‘ in surface waters mixes (dilutes) much faster with the resident water than in groundwater, implying that concetration in groundwater can locally reach high values. Both in surface- and groundwater the pharmaceuticals can decay and/or become part of transformation processes resulting in various metabolites.

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Drinking water production, water supply, health risk due to longterm exposure?

Surface water and groundwater are the crucial elements in spreading the ‘pollution‘ by pharmaceuticals in space and time. Obviously, as groundwater velocity is a few orders of magnitude smaller than river flow velocity, the ‘pollution‘ in surface waters mixes (dilutes) much faster with the resident water than in groundwater, implying that concetration in groundwater can locally reach high values. Both in surface- and groundwater the pharmaceuticals can decay and/or become part of transformation processes resulting in various metabolites.

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Effect of pharmaceutical residues on plant and animal life in ecosystems

Possibly the consequences for humans of ongoing exposure to low concentrations of pharmaceuticals could be extrapolated from the impact of pharmaceuticals on plant and animal life. Citing from ref. 2013a: “trace pharmaceuticals already contaminate a wide variety of species, from algae on up to mammals“.

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Legislation for pharmaceuticals in groundwater, surface water and drinking water

On the European level, the directive on priority substances is now being revised. This is also a WFD daughter directive. Based on the current status of consultations, it appears that there will be support for a common EU strategy to address pharmaceutical pollutants in water and that precise timescales will be formulated for implementation of appropriate measures. However, development of analytical methods and the technology is advancing much faster than the preparation of legislative instruments…

Objectives, Target groups and keywords, Selected references

This conference focuses on the comprehensive issue of occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the water environment and drinking water. This is done by considering the entire pathway of  pharmaceuticals from their source (human use of medicins, etc.) as sewage water to waste water treatment plants releasing their effluent to surface waters and groundwater, this water being used as source for drinking water production, ending up with drinking water that may contain pharmaceutical residues. The effect of pharmaceuticals on ecosystems is also considered. This conference aims to intensify contacts between professionals, scientists, engineers, water managers (river basin administrators, etc.) and policy makers involved in the field of (A) wastewater treatment, (B) surface waters, (C) groundwater, (D) drinking water supply, (E) aquatic ecosystems, and (F) legislation (setting water quality standards).

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Additional information