The Impact of Commonly Abused and Illicit Drugs in Wastewater Treatment

By Heather Jennings, PE, Senior Project Engineer for Probiotic Solutions®

I was attending a wastewater conference and overheard an operator talking about how a drug bust turned his lagoon orange and almost put him out of compliance with his permit. At another location, I was told that the city I was visiting had been hit by an unexpected source of ammonia that almost “wiped out” their bugs. I asked an operator if it was possible that the influent to his wastewater system might have illicit drugs in it. His reply was to the effect that, although he frequently found drug paraphernalia in his screens, he didn’t know of any illicit drugs being present in his system. So, I started wondering what illicit drug impacts really have on wastewater systems. The following is what I found. Continue reading

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