The occurrence and removal of selected fluoroquinolones in urban drinking water treatment plants

  • Yongpeng Xu
  • Ting Chen
  • Yuan Wang
  • Hui Tao
  • Shiyao Liu
  • Wenxin Shi


Fluoroquinolones (FQs) are a widely prescribed group of antibiotics. They enter the aqueous environment, where they are frequently detected, and can lead to a threat to human health. Drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) play a key role in removing FQs from potable water. This study investigated the occurrence and removal of four selected FQs (norfloxacin (NOR), ciprofloxacin (CIP), enrofloxacin (ENR), and ofloxacin (OFL)) in three urban DWTPs in China. The treatment efficacy for each system was simultaneously evaluated. Two of the examined DWTPs used conventional treatment processes. The third used conventional processes followed by additional treatment processes (ozonation-biologically activated carbon (ozonation-BAC) and membrane technology). The average concentrations of the four FQs in the source water and the finished water ranged from 51 to 248 ng/L and from <5 to 46 ng/L, respectively. Based on residual concentrations, the conventional treatment system had a low removal of FQs. In contrast, the addition of advanced treatment processes such as the ozonation-BAC and membranes, substantially improved the removal of FQs. The finding of this study has important implications: even though coagulation-sedimentation and chlorination treatment processes can remove most target FQs, the typical practice of advanced treatment processes is necessary for the further removal.


Fluoroquinolones (FQs) Drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) Advanced treatment process Removal ratio Reduction in concentration 



This work has been financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51108118), Heilongjiang Province Scholarship Foundation (LC2012C28), and the Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment (2014ZX07405002).


  1. Adachi, F., Yamamoto, A., Takakura, K. I., & Kawahara, R. (2013). Occurrence of fluoroquinolones and fluoroquinolone-resistance genes in the aquatic environment. Science of the Total Environment, 444, 508–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, C., Wang, Y., Loftin, K., & Meyer, M. (2002). Removal of antibiotics from surface and distilled water in conventional water treatment processes. Journal of Environmental Engineering-Asce, 128(3), 253–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander, J. T., Hai, F. I., & Al-aboud, T. M. (2012). Chemical coagulation-based processes for trace organic contaminant removal: current state and future potential. Journal of Environmental Management, 111, 195–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dodd, M. C., Shah, A. D., Von Gunten, U., & Huang, C. H. (2005). Interactions of fluoroquinolone antibacterial agents with aqueous chlorine: reaction kinetics, mechanisms, and transformation pathways. Environmental Science & Technology, 39(18), 7065–7076.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dorival-Garcia, N., Zafra-Gomez, A., Cantarero, S., Navalon, A., & Vilchez, J. L. (2013). Simultaneous determination of 13 quinolone antibiotic derivatives in wastewater samples using solid-phase extraction and Ultra performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Microchemical Journal, 106, 323–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Figueira, V., Vaz-Moreira, I., Silva, M., & Manaia, C. M. (2011). Diversity and antibiotic resistance of Aeromonas spp. in drinking and waste water treatment plants. Water Research, 45(17), 5599–5611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Focazio, M. J., Kolpin, D. W., Barnes, K. K., Furlong, E. T., Meyer, M. T., Zaugg, S. D., et al. (2008). A national reconnaissance for pharmaceuticals and other organic wastewater contaminants in the United States - II) Untreated drinking water sources. Science of the Total Environment, 402(2-3), 201–216.Google Scholar
  8. Gracia-Lor, E., Sancho, J. V., & Hernandez, F. (2011). Multi-class determination of around 50 pharmaceuticals, including 26 antibiotics, in environmental and wastewater samples by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, 1218(16), 2264–2275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gros, M., Rodriguez-Mozaz, S., & Barcelo, D. (2013). Rapid analysis of multiclass antibiotic residues and some of their metabolites in hospital, urban wastewater and river water by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to quadrupole-linear ion trap tandem mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, 1292, 173–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jia, A., Wan, Y., Xiao, Y., & Hu, J. Y. (2012). Occurrence and fate of quinolone and fluoroquinolone antibiotics in a municipal sewage treatment plant. Water Research, 46(2), 387–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jouraeva, V. A., Johnson, D. L., Hassett, J. P., Nowak, D. J., Shipunova, N. A., & Barbarossa, D. (2006). Role of sooty mold fungi in accumulation of fine-particle-associated PAHs and metals on deciduous leaves. Environmental Research, 102(3), 272–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Luo, Y., Xu, L., Rysz, M., Wang, Y. Q., Zhang, H., & Alvarez, P. J. J. (2011). Occurrence and transport of tetracycline, sulfonamide, quinolone, and macrolide antibiotics in the Haihe river basin, China. Environmental Science & Technology, 45(5), 1827–1833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Micallef, S. A., Goldstein, R. E. R., George, A., Kleinfelter, L., Boyer, M. S., McLaughlin, C. R., et al. (2012). Occurrence and antibiotic resistance of multiple salmonella serotypes recovered from water, sediment and soil on mid-Atlantic tomato farms. Environmental Research, 114, 31–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Peng, X. Z., Zhang, K., Tang, C. M., Huang, Q. X., Yu, Y. Y., & Cui, J. L. (2011). Distribution pattern, behavior, and fate of antibacterials in urban aquatic environments in south China. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 13(2), 446–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Renew, J. E., & Huang, C. H. (2004). Simultaneous determination of fluoroquinolone, sulfonamide, and trimethoprim antibiotics in wastewater using tandem solid phase extraction and liquid chromatography-electrospray mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, 1042(1–2), 113–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ternes, T. A., Joss, A., & Siegrist, H. (2004). Scrutinizing pharmaceuticals and personal care products in wastewater treatment. Environmental Science & Technology, 38(20), 392A–399A.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Tong, C., Zhuo, X., & Guo, Y. (2011). Occurrence and risk assessment of four typical fluoroquinolone antibiotics in raw and treated sewage and in receiving waters in Hangzhou, China. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 59(13), 7303–7309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Vieno, N. M., Harkki, H., Tuhkanen, T., & Kronberg, L. (2007). Occurrence of pharmaceuticals in river water and their elimination a pilot-scale drinking water treatment plant. Environmental Science & Technology, 41(14), 5077–5084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Vignesh, S., Muthukumar, K., & James, R. A. (2012). Antibiotic resistant pathogens versus human impacts: a study from three eco-regions of the Chennai coast, southern India. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 64(4), 790–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. von Gunten, U. (2003). Ozonation of drinking water: part I. Oxidation kinetics and product formation. Water Research, 37(7), 1443–1467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wang, P., He, Y. L., & Huang, C. H. (2010). Oxidation of fluoroquinolone antibiotics and structurally related amines by chlorine dioxide: reaction kinetics, product and pathway evaluation. Water Research, 44(20), 5989–5998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Westerhoff, P., Yoon, Y., Snyder, S., & Wert, E. (2005). Fate of endocrine-disruptor, pharmaceutical, and personal care product chemicals during simulated drinking water treatment processes. Environmental Science & Technology, 39(17), 6649–6663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ye, Z. Q., Weinberg, H. S., & Meyer, M. T. (2007). Trace analysis of trimethoprim and sulfonamide, macrolide, quinolone, and tetracycline antibiotics in chlorinated drinking water using liquid chromatography electrospray tandem mass spectrometry. Analytical Chemistry, 79(3), 1135–1144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Yiruhan, Wang, Q. J., Mo, C. H., Li, Y. W., Gao, P., Tai, Y. P., et al. (2010). Determination of four fluoroquinolone antibiotics in tap water in Guangzhou and Macao. Environmental Pollution, 158(7), 2350–2358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Zhang, H. M., Liu, P. X., Feng, Y. J., & Yang, F. L. (2013). Fate of antibiotics during wastewater treatment and antibiotic distribution in the effluent-receiving waters of the yellow sea, northern China. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 73(1), 282–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and EnvironmentHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinChina
  2. 2.School of Municipal and Environmental EngineeringHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinChina
  3. 3.China Heilongjiang Urban Planning Surveying Design and Research InstituteHarbinChina
  4. 4.College of EnvironmentHohai UniversityNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations