Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCP), crop protection products (like herbicides, fungicides, etc.) and other xenobiotics are found in many water bodies around the globe. While crop protection products are usually flushed into surface waters during rain events or percolate through to ground water level, pharmaceuticals originate from household and hospital waste water effluents. The Pharmaceutically Active Compounds (PhAC) are metabolised to an extent, residues are excreted and transported to the waste water treatment plants via sewer systems.

In various projects, the Sewer Research Group investigates the biotransformation of PhACs in sewers, including illicit drugs, and their use as biomarker for sewage epidemiology studies, as well as the co-metabolisation of these substances through microbial activity in downstream wastewater treatment systems.


  • Australian Research Council


  • National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (Entox)

Project Outcomes

The team working on multiple projects in this field consists of promising researchers with backgrounds in Biochemical, Environmental and Civil Engineering. Additionally to the ACWEB's successes in waste water treatment and sewer research under Prof Zhiguo Yuan, Dr Bing-Jie Ni received the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE130100451) “Novel biotreatment for micropollutant removal from contaminated water” (2013-2016), which is only awarded to very competitive researchers in highly innovative fields. Dr Guangming Jiang was awarded the Queensland Government Accelerate Fellowship for the period 2014-2017. Dr Jelena Radjenovic received several prestigious awards and scholarships related to the analysis and removal of pharmaceuticals in wastewater. Ms Ludwika Nieradzik gained experience in wastewater treatment in the pharma industry and was granted the UQI Scholarship 2014 in order to pursue research on pharmaceutical biotransformation in sewers. Mr Yifeng Xu enriches the team with his knowledge on estrogen removal from wastewater and was granted the UQI Scholarship in 2013.

Dr Phong Thai at the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (Entox) has experience in the estimation of drug use from wastewater analysis.


Journal Publications:

  • Thai, P.K., Jiang, G., Gernjak, W., Yuan, Z., Lai, F. Y., Mueller, J.F. (2014). Effects of sewer conditions on the degradation of selected illicit drug residues in wastewater. Water Research, 48:538-547
  • Thai, P.K., O’Brien J.W., Jiang, G., Gernjak, W., Yuan, Z., Eaglesham G., Mueller, J.F. (2014). Degradability of creatinine under sewer conditions affects its potential to be used as biomarker in sewage epidemiology. Water Research, 55:272-279

Conference Proceedings:

  • Nieradzik, L.M., Radjenovic, J. Yuan, Z., Ni, B.-J. Kinetic Analysis of In-Sewer Biotransformation of Selected Pharmaceuticals. The 9th IWA Symposium on Systems Analysis and Integrated Assessment (Watermatex), 2015, Gold Coast, Australia.
  • Nieradzik, L.M., Radjenovic, J. Yuan, Z., Ni, B.-J. Biotransformation of Selected Pharmaceuticals in Sewers. The 9th IWA Specialist Conference on Assessment and Control of Micropollutants and Hazardous Substrances in Water (Micropol & Ecohazard), 2015, Singapore.
  • Nieradzik, L.M., Radjenovic, J. Yuan, Z., Ni, B.-J. Biotransformation of common pharmaceuticals in rising main sewers. The 8th International Conference on Sewer Processes and Networks (SPN8), 2016, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Project members

Other members

  • Bing-Jie Ni
  • Ludwika Nieradzik
  • Dr Jelena Radjenovic
  • Dr Phong Thai (Entox)
  • Yifeng Xu