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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

Front. Environ. Sci. Eng.    2019, Vol. 13 Issue (3) : 32
Impacts of advanced treatment processes on elimination of antibiotic resistance genes in a municipal wastewater treatment plant
Lian Yang1, Qinxue Wen1, Zhiqiang Chen2(), Ran Duan1, Pan Yang2
1. State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment, Harbin Institute of Technology (SKLUWRE, HIT), Harbin 150090, China
2. National & Local Joint Engineering Laboratory for Municipal Sewage Resource Utilization Technology, Suzhou University of Science and Technology, Suzhou 215009, China
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The distributions of ARGs were monitored in a WWTP in Harbin during six months.

CASS had the best removal efficacy of ARGs compared to other processes in the WWTP.

UV disinfection could effectively control the HGT.

AGAC significantly remove ARGs and organics due to its high absorption capacity.

Combination of ozone and AGAC significantly improve removal of ARGs and organics.

Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) pose a serious threat to public health. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are essential for controlling the release of ARGs into the environment. This study investigated ARG distribution at every step in the treatment process of a municipal WWTP located in Harbin for six consecutive months. Changes in ARG distribution involved in two advanced secondary effluent treatment processes, ozonation and granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption, were analyzed. Biological treatment resulted in the highest ARG removal (0.76–1.94 log reduction), followed by ultraviolet (UV) disinfection (less than 0.5-log reduction). Primary treatment could not significantly remove ARGs. ARG removal efficiency increased with an increase in the ozone dose below 40 mg/L. However, amorphous GAC (AGAC) adsorption with a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 1 h showed better removal of ARGs, total organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorus (TP) than ozonation at a 60 mg/L dose. UV treatment could efficiently reduce the relative ARG abundance, despite presenting the lowest efficiency for the reduction of absolute ARG abundance compared with GAC and ozone treatments. The combination of ozone and AGAC can significantly improve the removal of ARGs, TOC, TN and TP. These results indicate that a treatment including biological processing, ozonation, and AGAC adsorption is a promising strategy for removing ARGs and refractory organic substances from sewage.

Keywords Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs)      Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP)      Ultraviolet (UV)      Ozonation      Granular activated carbon (GAC)     
This article is part of themed collection: Environmental Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance (Xin Yu, Hui Li & Virender K. Sharma)
Corresponding Authors: Zhiqiang Chen   
Issue Date: 05 May 2019
 Cite this article:   
Lian Yang,Qinxue Wen,Zhiqiang Chen, et al. Impacts of advanced treatment processes on elimination of antibiotic resistance genes in a municipal wastewater treatment plant[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2019, 13(3): 32.
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Lian Yang
Qinxue Wen
Zhiqiang Chen
Ran Duan
Pan Yang
Fig.1  (a) WWTP processes and sampling sites: (A) after the coarse screen, (B) after the fine screen, (C) after the grit chamber, (D) after the sedimentation tank, (E) after CASS, and (F) after UV disinfection. Configuration of post-treatments: (b) Ozone disinfection, (c) Granular activated carbon.
Specification GAC (Coal-Based) AGAC (Nutshell-Based)
Iodine number (mg/g) ≥500?950 ≥900?1000
Specific surface area (m2/g) 500?900 900?1100
Apparent density (g/cm3) 0.45?0.58 0.35?0.45
Moisture content ≤10% ≤10%
Tab.1  Physical characteristics of the activated carbon used in this study
Fig.2  Distribution of ARGs in the wastewater under different treatment processes (A, B, C, D, E, F represent the sampling locations after the coarse screen, the fine screen, the grit chamber, the sedimentation tank, CASS, and UV disinfection, respectively).
Fig.3  Non-metric multidimensional scaling of ARG across the wastewater treatment process (A, B, C, D, E, F represent the sampling locations, ①, ②, ③, ④, and ⑤ represent the treatment processes).
Fig.4  Removal of ARGs by ozone disinfection.
Fig.5  Removal of ARGs by activated carbon treatments
Fig.6  Comparison of different advanced treatments for ARG removal.
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