The ARC Discovery Project aims to improve estimates of population drug use and chemical exposure by systematically studying the fate of drugs, organic pollutants (e.g. pesticides) and human biomarkers in sewers. We will combine advanced experimental sewer research facilities with an outstanding analytical set-up and excellent modelling expertise to address critical gaps in our knowledge of the fate of chemicals in sewers. The information will be used to provide accurate, cost-effective and near real-time estimates of chemicals entering the sewer system that will allow us to better estimate changes in population drug use, chemical exposure and health status.


  • Jochen Mueller (Entox)
  • Phong Thai (Entox)
  • Jack Gao (Entox, PhD Student)


  • Australian Research Council

Project Outcomes

Investigations of the biodegradation of illicit drugs and other biomarkers were conducted in lab-scale sewers under different conditions. A field study was carried out at a sewer site of the Gold Coast City Council in 2016.



  • Thai, P.K., O'Brien, J., Jiang, G., Gernjak, W., Yuan, Z., Eaglesham, G. and 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.
  • Thai, P.K., Jiang, G., Gernjak, W., Yuan, Z., Lai, F.Y. and Mueller, J.F. (2014) Effects of sewer conditions on the degradation of selected illicit drug residues in wastewater. Water Research 48, 538-547.

Conference proceedings

  • O’Brien, J.; Banks, A.; Eaglesham, G. K.; Jiang, G.; Lai, F. Y.; Mueller, J. F.; Scheidegger, A.; Ort, C.; Thai, P., Degradation of population markers under sewer conditions may affect the prediction certainty/reliability of population estimates. In 2nd International Conference on Wastewater-based Drug Epidemiology: Testing the Waters, Ascona, Switzerland, 2015.
  • Jiang, G., Thai, P.K., Gernjak, W., Yuan, Z. and Mueller, J.F. (2013) Effects of sewer conditions on the dissipation of illicit drug residues and metabolites in wastewater In:  7th International Conference on Sewer Processes & Networks, 28-30 August, 2013,  The Edge Conference Centre, Sheffield, UK.
  • Thai, P.K., Lai, F.Y., Jiang, G., Gernjak, W., Yuan, Z. and Mueller, J.F. (2012) Degradation of illicit drugs and their metabolites in laboratory-scale sewer reactors In:  The 2nd SETAC Australasia Conference, 4-6 July 2012,  Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Project members

Other members

  • Jiaying Li