June 29, 2023

Tackling Pharmaceutical APIs in Wastewater

Presentation at NJWEA demonstrates effectiveness of Axine’s electrochemical oxidation process

VANCOUVER, B.C., Canada, May 8, 2023 — As pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment and reactors are washed, contaminated wastewater is often combined with other process and sanitary streams and directly discharged to sewer. Consequently, the discharge of manufacturing wastewater contaminated with active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) is a major source of pharmaceuticals in the environment (PiE).

At the 2023 New Jersey Water Environment Association (NJWEA) conference, held May 8–12 in Atlantic City, Geoffrey Millburn, applications engineer with Axine Water Technologies, delivered an informative presentation outlining the effectiveness of electrochemical oxidation to achieve on-site treatment of APIs in pharmaceutical wastewater.

Traditionally, API wastewaters are often segregated and trucked offsite for incineration or deep-well injection. However, the risk of trucking spills and secondary contamination of the air and ground, coupled with the lack of suitable disposal sites and continued increase in logistical costs, challenges the continued use of offsite disposal. Furthermore, conventional treatment methods such as membrane concentration and media adsorption create secondary waste streams that still require disposal, and biological treatments struggle with toxic and nutrient-poor wastewater matrices, resulting in inconsistent treatment performance.

In contrast, Axine’s unique, proprietary electrochemical oxidation technology applies electricity to solid state electrodes made from advanced catalyst materials capable of suppressing the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and promoting hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). Using electrolysis, the process facilitates direct electron transfer with contaminants and the production of oxidants, including hydroxyl radicals, chlorine, ozone, and persulfates, from water and ions typically found in wastewater. Capable of breaking extremely stable bonds (C-F, C≡N) and effectively mineralizing any soluble/miscible organic compound, Axine’s electrochemical oxidation technology is ideally suited to oxidize all types of APIs in pharmaceutical wastewater to below Predicted No-Effect Concentration (PNEC) levels.

To illustrate, Millburn presented a case study with operating data from a commercial-scale electrochemical oxidation API removal system currently operating at a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical manufacturer. In operation since August 2022, this system successfully removes isoxazoline, a highly stable and toxic API, from the manufacturing rinse water to below 300 µg/L, allowing safe discharge to sanitary sewer.