Enzymes : the new water/wastewater treatment chemical
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Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are detected routinely in raw and treated municipal wastewater. Conventional wastewater treatment processes are not effective in removing PPCP; therefore, treated wastewater discharges are one of the main entry points for PPCPs into the aquatic environment, and eventually into drinking water supplies. The use of laccase-catalyzed oxidation for removing low concentrations of PPCPs from municipal wastewater after primary treatment is investigated. Oxybenzone was selected as a representative PPCP. Like many other PPCPs, oxybenzone is not recognized directly by the laccase enzyme. Therefore, mediators were used to expand the oxidative range of laccase, and the efficacy of this laccase-mediator system in primary effluent was evaluated. Eight potential mediators were investigated. The greatest oxybenzone removal efficiencies were observed when 2,2’-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6sulphonic acid) (ABTS), a synthetic mediator, and acetosyringone (ACE), a natural mediator, were present. An environmentally relevant concentration of oxybenzone (10 µg/L) in primary effluent was removed below the detection limit after two hours of treatment with ABTS, and 95% was removed after two hours of treatment with ACE. Several mediator/oxybenzone molar ratios were evaluated at two different initial oxybenzone concentrations. Higher mediator/oxybenzone molar ratios were required at the lower (environmentally relevant) oxybenzone concentrations, and ACE required higher molar ratios than ABTS to achieve comparable oxybenzone removal. The oxidation mechanisms and kinetics of the ACE mediator was evaluated. A better understanding of the mediator oxidation process would lead to a better design of the laccase-mediator system. An alternative laccase-mediator treatment configuration, which allows the enzyme and mediator to react prior to coming in contact with the target PPCP, was investigated. This treatment configuration shows promise for further development since it might reduce laccase and mediator requirements. Oxidation byproducts generated by the laccase-mediator system were characterized and compared to those generated during ozonation. Enzymatic treatment generated byproducts with higher mass to charge (m/z) ratios, likely due to oxidative coupling reactions. The results of this study suggest that, with further development, a laccase-mediator system has the potential to extend the treatment range of laccase to PPCPs not directly recognized by the enzyme, even in a primary effluent matrix.