• Project No 4974
  • Project Name Fate and risk of pharmaceuticals in biosolids-applied agricultural land
  • Lead Organisation Water Research Australia & CRC Care
  • Research Lead University of Newcastle
  • Main Researcher Andrea Carpio Segovia
  • Completion Year 2026

Project Description

Wastewater treatment is a procedure used to remove contaminants from wastewater and reduce the levels of pathogenic microorganisms present in human waste. Biosolids and wastewater effluent are two by-products derivated from this treatment. Australia has one of the strictest regulatory regimens for biosolids use in the world and the majority of these biosolids are currently being used as a fertilizer in agricultural lands, whereas wastewater is an increasingly attractive option to meet agricultural irrigation needs in water stressed regions.

However, not all the contaminants are removed during the treatment process and therefore can be found in the biosolids and effluents. One example are the synthetic organic compounds, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, in this case the by-products can contain bioactive chemicals which are designed to elicit a therapeutic effect, such as pain relief, epilepsy and anxiety treatment, among others. This biological potency is not lost when these chemicals enter the environment presenting, even at low concentrations, a risk to human and ecosystem health.

This research focuses on having a better understanding of the fate, transport, and transformation of pharmaceuticals in the environment and biota to contribute to the development of environmental and waste management guidance documents.

PhD Thesis underway by Andrea Carpio Segovia.