Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 447–469 | Cite as

Trends in organic micropollutants removal in secondary treatment of sewage

  • T. AlvarinoEmail author
  • J. Lema
  • F. Omil
  • S. Suárez
Review Paper


Organic micropollutants (OMPs) comprise a wide group of substances highly consumed in modern societies. There has been a growing social and scientific interest on OMPs in wastewaters in the twentyfirst century. This research paper has identified the evolution of the research trends in the period 2001–2017 on OMPs fate during secondary wastewater treatment. These trends have moved from a global perspective on the occurrence of OMPs in wastewaters to more specific research focussed on understanding their behaviour during advanced treatment processes. Based on a bibliometric analysis carried out using one of the leading scientific databases, pharmaceuticals have been identified as the main group of OMPs. An increasing number of publications have been released on the fate of pharmaceuticals in wastewater with a growing number of countries involved: from 38 publications belonging to 14 countries in first 5-year period analysed (2001–2005) up to 138 from 42 countries only in the last 2 years (2016–2017). The main operational conditions in wastewater treatment plants influencing the removal of OMPs, as well as the mechanisms involved depending on the physico-chemical characteristics of the substances are reviewed. The paper also considers the role of microbial populations, as well as technological and operational features in OMPs abatement. Finally, a specific section is dedicated to the metabolic and cometabolic biotransformations of some OMPs taking place under heterotrophic, nitrifying and anaerobic conditions, a more novel research trend explored more recently.


Advanced treatments Biotransformation Cometabolism Operational conditions Organic micropollutants Removal mechanisms 



This research was supported by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (AEI) through the Project COMETT (CTQ2016-80847-R). The authors belong to the Galician Competitive Research Group GRC2013-032 and to the CRETUS Strategic Partnership (AGRUP2015/02). All these programs and project are co-funded by FEDER (UE).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical Engineering, Institute of Technology, School of EngineeringUniversity of Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain

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