Removal and Degradation Pathways of Sulfamethoxazole Present in Synthetic Municipal Wastewater via an Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The current global water crisis in addition to continues contamination of natural water bodies with harmful organic micropollutants (OMPs) have driven the development of new water treatment technologies that allow the efficient removal of such compounds. Among a long list of OMPs, antibiotics are considered as top priority pollutants to be treated due to their great resistance to biological treatments and their potential to develop bacterial resistance. Different approaches, such as membrane-based and advance oxidation processes have been proposed to alleviate or minimize antibiotics discharge into aquatic environments. However most of these processes are costly and generate either matrices with high concentration of OMPs or intermediate products with potentially greater toxicity or persistence. Therefore, this thesis proposes the study of an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) for the treatment of synthetic municipal wastewater containing sulfamethoxazole (SMX), a world widely used antibiotic. Besides the general evaluation of AnMBR performance in the COD removal and biogas production, this research mainly focuses on the SMX removal and its degradation pathway. Thus 5 SMX quantification was performed through solid phase extraction-liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry and the identification of its transformation products (TPs) was assessed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry technique. The results achieved showed that, working under optimal conditions (35°C, pH 7 and ORP around -380 to -420 mV) and after a biomass adaptation period (maintaining 0.85 VSS/TSS ratio), the AnMBR process provided over 95% COD removal and 95-98% SMX removal, while allowing stable biogas composition and methane production (≈130 mL CH4/g CODremoved). Kinetic analysis through a batch test showed that after 24 h of biological reaction, AnMBR process achieved around 94% SMX removal, indicating a first order kinetic reaction with K= 0.119, which highlights the high degradation capacity of the anaerobic bacteria. Along the AnMBR process, 7 TPs were identified and possible degradation pathways were proposed. At low influent SMX concentrations (
Date of AwardMay 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorTorOve Leiknes (Supervisor)


  • Anaerobic MBR
  • sulfamethoxazole
  • Degradation Pathways
  • Wastewater Treatment
  • Organic Micropollutants
  • Waste water

Cite this