Luxembourg’s biological wastewater treatment plants not equipped to extract harmful drug residue

Luxembourg’s Minister for the Environment, Carole Dieschbourg, responded to a parliamentary question submitted by ADR MP Jeff Engelen on the limits of Luxembourg’s biological wastewater treatment plants.

Dieschbourg confirmed that the conventional biological waste treatment plants are not capable of extracting harmful drug residue from wastewater.

The minister detailed that she was aware of the issue of medical residue in wastewater and confirmed that multiple water treatment plants will soon be equipped with a fourth level of treating wastewater. This fourth level would allow the plants to treat the residues from medication and antibiotics using activated carbon or ozone procedures.

Researching alternate treatment methods
The minister revealed that the ministry is currently conducting research on alternate treatment methods in an inter-regional project in collaboration with the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern.

Regular measurements and analyses
The authorities also ensure they conduct regular measurements of analyses of the water flowing in Luxembourg’s streams and rivers. Notably, the authorities test the water in the Sûre and Alzette rivers for concentrated amounts of medication such as ibuprofen, lidocaine, and five sorts of antibiotics. The tests are decided based on a European surveillance list.

Doubled water networks
Finally, Dieschbourg revealed preventative measures against water contamination. When institutions likely to see high concentrations of medication are due to be built, such as hospitals or retirement homes, the authorities will plan for double water networks. This will allow highly polluted wastewater to be collected and treated separately in order to extract harmful drug residue. However, this is so far only a plan for future constructions, and not yet in operation.