Elimination of pharmaceuticals from the wastewater of a pharmaceutical plant

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Courtesy of EnviroChemie GmbH

Roche AG had commissioned the company EnviroChemie to develop a new procedure for a new production facility in Mexico, which prevents the undesired release of ecotoxicologi-cally contaminating drugs into the environment and eliminates pharmaceuticals in the wastewater directly at the point of origin, even before the\ enter the general sewage treatment plant. In the first step, the three different methods UV/ll?0? oxidation, o/one oxidation and adsorption on activated carbon were tested on a laboratory scale, and evaluated with regard to ecological and economical aspects. When comparing the validated procedures, o/onisation in this special case proved to be the most effective method, in order to efficiently destroy the active ingredients in the wastewater safely and completely. Based on these results. EnviroChemie designed a large-scale technical plant in the second step and implemented it.

The following article describes the project development and design of the Envochem plant for eliminating active ingredients from the wastewater of the production facility directK at the point of origin.

INTRODUCTION. Pharmaceuticals and (heir metabolites are de tected on an increasing scale in the aquatic environment. The
drugs mostly net into the surface and drinking water through the excretions of humans and animals. However, the wastewater of pharmaceutical production facilities can also he contaminated with active ingredients. If the* drugs produced are rated as eco-toxicologically contaminating, the wastewater should be treated directly at the point of origin, to ensure that only biodegradable substances end up in the environment.

This was the challenge faced by Roche when building a new production facility in Mexico. Two highly effective medicaments for the treatment of cancer are formulated in this facility. In-depth analyses have shown that the two agents Capecitabin (Xeloda) and Mycophenolat Mofetil (Cellcept) could be ecologically criti-cat and should therefore not get into the wastewater. During galenic production, approximately 10,000 litres of wastewater are generated daily, which need to be processed. Only one agent is treated per day. Roche commissioned I-nviroChemie to test dif ferent procedures for decomposing Mycophenolat Mofetil on a laboratory scale and to implement the results in a large scale technical plant. The aim was to find a effective and at the same time affordable method with which the drugs can be fully eliminated. Tests with the Capecitabin were carried out in the Institut ftir Hnergie- und Umwelttechnik e.V. in Duisburg (IUTA). Germany. Tests for adsorption on activated carbon were performed at Roche Basel in Switzerland.

The specifications for the technology are:

  • Reliably deliver results
  • Hnsure a very high operational safety
  • High degree of automation
  • Compact construction for the processing plant
  • little handling of chemicals
  • Generation of as little waste as possible

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