The ULPGC successfully tests natural treatment of drugs in wastewater in Tafira


The ULPGC successfully tests natural drug clearance in Tafira


This was reported by Rayco Guedes that, together with José Juan Santana Rodríguez and Zoraida Sosa Ferrera, the three researchers from the i-UNAT Environmental Chemical Analysis group, participate in the aforementioned study led by the professor of the Department of Chemistry, José Alberto Herrera Melián . “Through the Tafira treatment plant, we have studied the amount of emerging pollutants that reach it and how natural purification treatments work to eliminate them. The problem of the emerging ones -drugs, detergents, hormones- is that they are not in the legislation, today, the treatment plants are not obliged to eliminate them, but it is interesting to know if what we currently have, both conventional and natural treatment plants, they are capable of eliminating this type of compounds or not ”, indicated Rayco Guedes.

They verified a high level of elimination of the hormonal compounds detected


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The results of the work, called Study of the efficiency of elimination of emerging pollutants through natural treatments and recovery of the Palmeral de Salvago through irrigation with regenerated wastewater from the University Campus of Tafira, financed with 48,000 euros by the CajaCanarias Foundation and the Obra Social la Caixa, reveal a high level of elimination of these pollutants, -around 75 %-, both hormonal compounds and drugs, mainly nicotine and caffeine.

«The objective of this project was to study the efficiency of the natural purification system of the Tafira Campus for conventional parameters of wastewater quality, as well as in the elimination of hormone and drug residues, because knowing the removal efficiency of conventional parameters will allow determine if the water could be poured or reused according to the regulations, “said the ULPGC researcher.

In addition to this, the effect of effluent recirculation -50 and 100% – was studied, as well as the pre-treatment of the influent, since the system treats raw wastewater from the Campus.

Natural and synthetic

“The good thing is that we saw that the natural purification system was capable of eliminating these compounds, and at zero energy cost, because what the natural purifier uses is the capacity of the soil and the plants to purify, there are no pumps or energy, the debugging takes place naturally ».

Researchers from the aforementioned Research Institute analyzed two types of hormones, those that the body excretes naturally, female and male, such as testosterone or estradiol, which reach wastewater. And also the synthetic hormones that are used as drugs, such as norgestrel, a compound used in the contraceptive pill. Out of a group of 15 hormones, eight were detected.

The water obtained was used to recover the Palmeral de Salvago, of high ecological value


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After verifying that the water produced in this natural purification system complied with the legislation, it was used to irrigate La Palma grove attached to the Tafira Campus purification plant, known as Palmeral de Salvago, of high ecological value, to improve its health. “The Canarian palm tree needs water, and we were able to verify that what was produced in the purification system contributed to recovering the ecological quality of that palm grove,” he concluded.

The IV edition of the ULPGC Telefónica Chair Contest, awarded the first prize in the research, innovation and transfer modality to the i-UNAT project called Study of the efficiency of elimination of emerging pollutants through natural treatments and recovery of La Palma Grove of Salvago through irrigation with regenerated wastewater from the University Campus of Tafira, which measures the elimination of pollutants in wastewater, mainly drugs and hormones up to 75%.

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