The viability of treating high-concentration antibiotic wastewater by a membrane bioreactor (MBR) was studied using submerged flat sheet membrane. The major problems for these modules are concentration polarization and subsequent fouling. By using gas-liquid two-phase flow, these problems can be ameliorated. A case study has been identified and the current issues in one of the major pharmaceutical industry (manufacturing cephalosporin drugs) located in Chennai, India, has been discussed for the possible removal of anaerobically transformed intermediates of antibiotic pharmaceutical wastewater. The objective of the study was to determine the effect of organic loading rate and hydraulic retention time on the removal of cephalosporin derivative, viz., cephalexin (C16H17N3O4S·H2O) and the intermediates [7-amino-3-deacetoxycephalosporanic acid (7-ADCA) and acyl group (Phenyl acetic acid)] in the MBR with enhanced biodegradation using bioaugmentation technique. Based on the critical examination of results, the industry is looking for the alternatives of either direct disposal of 7-ADCA and phenyl acetic acid or for further degradation and disposal, which will essentially require additional cost and maintenance. The present regulatory standard implemented at a global level, (meaning the intermediates which are transformed during its course of travel within the industry and in the treatments plants, i.e., in the present study it is, 7-ADCA and phenyl acetic acid are not allowed to discharge on water bodies), does not envisage such disposal alternatives and hence the present study was aimed at the complete removal of intermediates (7-ADCA) and phenyl acetic acid prior to discharge.
Keywords: antibiotic, biotranformation, cephalosporin, flat sheet, membrane bioreactor, pharmaceutical, wastewater treatment