Fate of antibiotics in activated sludge followed by ultrafiltration (CAS-UF) and in a membrane bioreactor (MBR) Academic Article uri icon


  • The fates of several macrolide, sulphonamide, and trimethoprim antibiotics contained in the raw sewage of the Tel-Aviv wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) were investigated after the sewage was treated using either a full-scale conventional activated sludge (CAS) system coupled with a subsequent ultrafiltration (UF) step or a pilot membrane bioreactor (MBR) system. Antibiotics removal in the MBR system, once it achieved stable operation, was 15–42% higher than that of the CAS system. This advantage was reduced to a maximum of 20% when a UF was added to the CAS. It was hypothesized that the contribution of membrane separation (in both systems) to antibiotics removal was due either to sorption to biomass (rather than improvement in biodegradation) or to enmeshment in the membrane biofilm (since UF membrane pores are significantly larger than the contaminant molecules). Batch experiments with MBR biomass showed a markedly high potential for sorption of the tested antibiotics onto the biomass. Moreover, methanol extraction of MBR biomass released significant amounts of sorbed antibiotics. This finding implies that more attention must be devoted to the management of excess sludge.

publication date

  • January 1, 2011