Superfund Research Program
Heterogeneous Photocatalytic System for Water Remediation
Project Leader: Joel S. Thompson
Grant Number: R41ES017575
Funding Period: Phase I: September 2009 – August 2010
Since the enactment of the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (1996), mandated water treatment strategies have evolved to protect the general population from toxins that are found in our water systems. New toxins, as well as the need for legislative action to protect us from them, evolve because we increase the consumption of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), we have technologies that can probe to lower levels of detection, we learn about the consequences of ingesting PPCPs (even at trace levels), and we delve into the consequences of mixing numerous PPCPs. The proposed technology has the potential to address a variety of these concerns because it is able to decompose a variety of PPCPs as well as disinfect water from a variety of pathogens.
Researchers have defined Phase I of this program for establishing a system that will destroy pharmaceuticals in drinking water by leveraging Eltron’s PeroxEgen™ and proprietary photocatalysts which will be developed in Phase I research. PeroxEgen™ is an H2O2 and peracetic acid (PAA) generating device that is nearing commercial readiness. Wastewater, doped with PeroxEgen™-generated H2O2/PAA, will come into contact with the photocatalysts, ensuring destructive oxidation of the target pharmaceutical. Catalyst development is one of Eltron’s core strengths. Researchers have developed more than 30 proprietary catalytic materials.
On March 9, 2008, the Associated Press announced that an investigation led by the AP National Investigative Team reveals that pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medicines are present in the drinking water supplied to at least 41 million Americans. While water utilities companies at this time insist that the water is safe, concern exists over the long-term health effects that will result from ingesting antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers, sex hormones and a number of other drugs. Gender-reversal of fish living in municipal waters containing as low as five parts per trillion of estradiol is one of the more high-profile examples of the effects that have been documented. In a seminal study by E. Michael Thurman et al.,4b it was observed that subtle, chronic effects from low-level environmental exposure to select organic wastewater contaminants appear to be of concern. Furthermore, the EPA has funded a study by Johns Hopkins University to assess the impact of pharmaceuticals and antiseptics on drinking water. Although regulatory mandates for removing this newly detected family of pollutants don’t exist today, the fact that studies are underway indicates that such regulations could soon be in effect. We believe that they will. [Even if they are not, the public will increasingly question water quality specific to these new chemical contaminants.]
The University of Colorado’s (CU) Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering has agreed to consult on the program, providing the expertise of Prof. Karl Linden and Michael Thurman, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Environmental Mass Spectrometry (CEMS) at CU Boulder. CEMS houses instrumentation such as an Agilent Technologies Inc. liquid chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometer (LC/TOF-MS) and LC/MS/MS ion trap. The Agilent TOF instrument is sensitive down to the attomole (1 x 10-18 mole) range, and offers better than two parts-per-million mass accuracy, which gives scientists high confidence in their data and helps them easily identify the compounds they find. Based on the skills of the research team and advanced development of PeroxEgen™, we are confident that we can produce an effective, commercially viable system under phased funding by the NIH.