Pharmaceutical Wastewater Treatment: A Vital Solution For Protecting The Environment

At LAT Water, we work with a range of industries to create bespoke wastewater treatment plants, specially designed for your usage needs and site layout. As you may have seen in our recent press release, we’ve partnered with BBI Solutions to treat trade effluent and other wastewater produced at BBI’s site at Crumlin, South Wales. Learn more about the importance of pharmaceutical wastewater treatment below.

The pharmaceutical industry has made some of the most important breakthroughs in modern healthcare, but has also unfortunately become known for being one of the largest producers of toxic wastewater in the world. This is due to the complexity of the products being produced and the high concentrations of both natural and man-made elements that are required to make medicines and other products as effective as possible. If waste and byproducts are not disposed of correctly, this can result in high volumes of extremely concentrated (and sometimes biologically active) substances entering ecosystems that are not equipped to handle them, which can cause irreversible damage to those areas. 

This is why pharmaceutical companies are subject to some of the strictest regulations compared to other industries, and rigorous testing must be in place before any wastewater is allowed to leave manufacturing facilities. 

Why is pharmaceutical wastewater treatment important?

Waste production is an unavoidable part of any manufacturing process, but the way waste is handled can make a huge difference to the environment. As the pharmaceutical industry develops products for both humans and animals, waste and wastewater can contain varying levels of solid, liquid, and gaseous substances which can make pharmaceutical wastewater extremely complex (especially in the case of synthetic and man-made substances which may behave differently to their natural alternatives). 

Alongside this, pharmaceutical products are specifically designed to cause physical changes in living organisms, which is why their impact on wildlife and ecosystem health can be so severe when not treated properly. For example, some studies have shown that when bacteria interact with water that has been polluted with antibiotics, they will mutate in an effort to survive and this is a contributing factor to the growing issue of antibiotic resistance. Other studies have also shown that medicines such as antidepressants can affect the development and reproductive growth of fish (this is also why it’s so dangerous to flush old medicines down the toilet!). 

How is wastewater treated in the pharmaceutical industry?

There are different methods of pharmaceutical wastewater treatment that can effectively remove excess and harmful substances before it’s released into the environment. These methods include:

Physical treatment 

This involves the use of physical processes such as sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection to remove suspended solids, pathogens, and other contaminants from wastewater.

Chemical treatment

This involves the use of controlled chemical processes to neutralise harmful substances and make them less toxic or allow for easier removal. This may include chemical oxidation which can be performed onsite, or a combination of processes such as coagulation-flocculation which firstly stabilises suspended particles and then helps them “clump” together so they can be easily extracted. (It’s worth noting, however, that chemical treatments are most effective in removing inorganic compounds and heavy metals.)

Biological treatment

Biological treatment usually uses microorganisms to break down organic compounds and remove them from wastewater streams (where chemical treatment cannot be used, biological treatment will usually be the next best alternative). Biological treatment can be aerobic (meaning it uses oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen), and is an efficient method of wastewater treatment that produces less sludge and requires less energy than other methods.

Advanced treatment methods

More modern methods can also be employed to optimise treatment, reduce energy usage, and provide more control over each stage of the process, as well as enable companies to recover useful nutrients and recycle clean water at the end of the treatment process. LAT Water’s approach to wastewater treatment is specially designed to reuse waste heat as an energy source, reduce energy usage by as much as 70% compared to alternative treatment methods, and recover in excess of 85% clean water.

What are the benefits of pharmaceutical wastewater treatment?

The key benefits of pharmaceutical wastewater treatment include:

Protecting the environment

Proper treatment of pharmaceutical wastewater can prevent the spread of strong chemicals, reduce resistance to medicine in humans and animals, protect water sources, and reduce mutations in land and aquatic ecosystems.

Protecting public health

Effective wastewater treatment can prevent the spread of deadly or infectious diseases, viruses, and hazardous substances. As wastewater can include high concentrations of medicines, there can also be further reactions between different medication types which can have unpredictable effects on the human body – especially in people who are immunocompromised. 

Compliance with regulations

The pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated for a reason and it is essential for all companies across the world to comply with their local guidelines and environmental laws. Non-compliance can have immeasurable physical effects, as well as carrying penalties which can hurt businesses financially or operationally if their license to operate is revoked. 

Sustainability

Alongside the environmental impacts of wastewater treatment, there are also many sustainability benefits including wastewater recycling which can help businesses save money, reduce their water consumption and reliance on additional freshwater resources, as well as establishing a self-sustaining operation with less downtime and improved efficiency. 

By working with LAT Water, companies have been able to meet (and exceed) local regulations for their industry as well as save up to 75% on their operational costs compared to their previous wastewater management partner. Learn more by contacting our team.

Contact The LAT Water Team

Meet us in person at the Chemical UK Expo at the NEC in Birmingham on the 10th-11th of May at stand D34.

You can also contact our team on +44 (0)1635 635900 or by emailing info@latwater.com. Download our corporate brochure for more details about wastewater treatment solutions.

Elias Elia
18th Apr 2023