Co-composting of pharmaceutical wastes in soil

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Aims:Soils at a commercial facility had become contaminated with the pharmaceutical chemical residues, Probenecid and Methaqualone, and required remediation.Methods and Results:Soil composting was investigated as an alternative to incineration for treatment. In laboratory trials, a factorial experimental design was used to evaluate organic matter amendment type and concentration, and incubation temperature. In pilot scale trials, Probenecid was reduced from 5100 mg kg–1 to < 10 mg kg–1 within 20 weeks in mesophilic treatments. An 8 tonne pilot scale treatment confirmed that thermophilic composting was effective under field conditions. In the full-scale treatment, 180 tonnes of soil were composted. Initial concentrations of the major contaminants in the full-scale compost treatment were 1160 mg kg–1 and 210 mg kg–1, for Probenecid and Methaqualone, respectively. Probenecid concentration reached the target level of 100 mg kg–1 in 6 weeks, and removal of Methaqualone to < 100 mg kg–1 was achieved after 14 weeks.Conclusions:Co-composting was effective in reducing soil concentrations of Probenecid and Methaqualone residues to acceptable values.Significance and Impact of the Study:Co-composting is a technology that has application in the remediation of pharmaceutical contaminants in soil.

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