Eliminating micropollutants in sewage plants

This project looks into how active drugs substances and micropollutants can be extracted via sewage plants. The part played by ISOE is to investigate how such inputs can be avoid.

Research approach

ISOE is here a partner within a joint research project co-ordinated by the Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IUTA) in Duisburg.

Eliminating micropollutants

The different wastewater treatment procedures are compared in terms of their cost to the economy and their overall benefit to society. The aim is to develop tools to evaluate and select optimal processing techniques, taking into account not merely the 'hard' costs, but also the benefits for water bodies and health & consumer protection.

Avoiding micropollutants

The ISOE team is analysing how the input of micropollutants into water bodies can be avoided in the first place. It is developing avoidance strategies for selected substances such as active drug substances or flame retardants. In a second stage, the scientists will ascertain the direct and indirect costs of implementing these strategies, adding social evaluation criteria to the equation in the process.


Pharmaceutical residues and organic micropollutants in water bodies have been a recurring subject of public debate for several years now. Micropollutants end up in the water cycle mainly via domestic and industrial wastewater.  In North Rhine-Westphalia, this problem is being tackled through the 'Wastewater Investment Programme' set up in 2007.  Via this channel, the regional government allocates financial subsidies to local authorities, district water boards and companies to help them make the requisite investment in water pollution control. Parallel to this, the State Ministry of the Environment (MKULNV NRW) launched a research programme on the elimination of pharmaceuticals and organic micropollutants. The project is part of this research programme.

Cooperation partners

  • Institut für Energie- und Umwelttechnik e.V. (IUTA) Duisburg (coordination)
  • Emschergenossenschaft / Lippeverband (EG/LV) Essen
  • Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW Basel) Muttenz
  • Forschungsinstitut für Wasser- und Abfallwirtschaft an der RWTH Aachen e.V. (FiW)
  • Grontmij GmbH Köln
  • Institut für Siedlungswasserwirtschaft der RWTH Aachen (ISA)
  • Institut für Wasserforschung GmbH Schwerte
  • Ruhrforschungsinstitut für Innovations- und Strukturpolitik e.V. (RUFIS) Bochum
  • Ruhrverband (RV) Essen
  • Universität Duisburg-Essen, Lehrstuhl für Betriebswirtschaftslehre, insb. Umweltwirtschaft und Controlling (UWCON)


Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection of North Rhine-Westphalia 


2010/05 – 2012/03