Electrochemical treatment of effluent for the removal of contaminants of emergent concern and culturable microorganisms

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The present work aims to study the electrochemical (EC) process applied for the removal of contaminants of emergent concern (CECs) from wastewater after secondary treatment and the effect of the process on the total culturable microorganisms. The EC experiments were performed in a cylindrical open reactor with 500 mL of effluent, and a fixed current density of 8 mA/cm² was applied through mixed metal oxide electrodes. The experiments were conducted in different sets. In the first round (Set 1), the effluent sample was spiked with three CECs (200 ppb each): Caffeine (CAF), carbamazepine (CBZ), and oxybenzone (OXY). For the best treatment period, 6 h, electrodegradation rates ranged from 41 ± 7% for CAF to 95 ± 6% for OXY, with an 87% removal of total culturable microorganisms. In the second round (Set 2), aiming to assess EC process efficiency in a more complex CEC mixture, the effluent was spiked with six more CECs (200 ppb each): Diclofenac (DCF), triclosan (TCS), bisphenol A (BPA), 17β-estradiol (E2), 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), and ibuprofen (IBU), giving a total of nine CECs. In this case, the EC process allowed decreasing the CEC content by 19-100% (below the limit of detection), depending on the effluent samples, and the culturable microorganisms by 99.98% after a 6 h treatment. By contributing to CEC degradation and microorganism removal, the EC process proved to be a viable remediation and disinfection technology for secondary effluent from wastewater treatment plants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number520
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2021


  • Electrochemical disinfection
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products
  • Tertiary treatment
  • Total culturable microorganisms


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