LIFE PharmDegrade - Degradation of pharmaceuticals in wastewaters from nursing homes and hospitals

LIFE13 ENV/SI/000466

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Marko GERL
Email: marko.gerl@arhel.si

Project description:


The systemic control of pharmaceuticals in waters remains unregulated in the EU, despite the European Commission's proposal in 2012 for the restriction of the three most common pharmaceuticals in water. Among the most frequent are the remains of medicines such as endocrine disruptors, antibiotics, remains of painkillers and tranquilisers. Pseudoendocrines are now classified as substances of very high concern and are addressed in the EU REACH Directive. They are also considered as important pollutants according to the Water Directive. Biological wastewater treatment plants, which are the most commonly used wastewater technologies, are usually insufficiently equipped to treat pharmaceuticals. Sometimes they even produce metabolites that are often more problematic than the pollutant treated.


The project’s general objective is to introduce an efficient and financially viable technology for the removal of pharmaceuticals (PH) from the effluent of wastewater treatment plants. The technology is based on the advanced oxidation processes (AOP) associated with electrochemical degradation of PH, using different electrodes (graphite electrodes, mixed metal oxide electrodes and boron-doped diamond electrodes). AOP processes are based on generation of hydroxyl radicals (OH); OH radicals are powerful oxidisers capable of oxidative decomposition of practically all known organic pollutants and microbes; they are appropriate for the removal of heavily degradable pollutants from waters. Unlike noxious fluoride radicals the OH radicals have a short viability period and are, therefore, safe to use.

The project will demonstrate technology on a sufficiently large scale to fully evaluate its effectiveness and economic viability. The aim is to demonstrate a solution that it is applicable to all wastewater containing PH and other persistent substances, which also include wastewater from old people’s homes and hospitals in the EU. At the same time it is a flexible technology, suitable for different applications, with low maintenance costs and high efficiency.

Expected results: The main expected result will be the development and demonstration of cost-effective technologies with low operating and maintenance costs, which will be applicable to all nursing homes and hospitals, as well as the development of an effective protocol for efficient wastewater treatment with persistent substances for other end-users. The design and operation of a new treatment system – setting up a modular approach, which includes biological, physical and electrochemical systems with up to 90% removal efficiency of selected pharmaceuticals.

The project will also contribute to the improvement of knowledge in the area of occurrence and interactions of pharmaceuticals in wastewaters and thus contribute to the development of standards and legislation in the field of emerging pollutants.



Environmental issues addressed:


Waste - Medical waste
Risk management - Human health protection
Services & Commerce - Healthcare - Social work
Water - Waste water treatment


hazardous substance‚  public health‚  water quality improvement‚  waste water treatment‚  hospital waste‚  pollutant elimination

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator ARHEL projektiranje in inženiring d.o.o.
Type of organisation SME Small and medium sized enterprise
Description Since its foundation in 1996, the Arhel company has been involved in the development, production and sales of various electromechanical products, including a high-current system for treating toxic wastewater in the process of soil remediation and nonstandard laboratory measurement and control equipment.
Partners UL (FFA)(Univerza v Ljubljani (Fakulteta za farmacijo)), Slovenia


Project reference LIFE13 ENV/SI/000466
Duration 01-SEP-2014 to 30-NOV -2016
Total budget 1,216,847.00 €
EU contribution 500,619.00 €
Project location Pomurska(Slovenia Slovenija) Podravska(Slovenia Slovenija) Koroska(Slovenia Slovenija) Savinjska(Slovenia Slovenija) Zasavska(Slovenia Slovenija) Spodnjeposavska(Slovenia Slovenija) Gorenjska(Slovenia Slovenija) Notranjsko-kraska(Slovenia Slovenija) Goriska(Slovenia Slovenija) Obalno-kraska(Slovenia Slovenija) Jugovzhodna Slovenija(Slovenia Slovenija) Osrednjeslovenska(Slovenia Slovenija) Extra-Regio(Slovenia Slovenija) Associated Slovenia (SLO)(Slovenia Slovenija)


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