Understanding the role of the different anaerobic digestion stages on the removal of organic micropollutants (OMPs) is essential to mitigate their release from wastewater treatment plants. This study assessed the fate of 21 OMPs during hydrolysis and acidogenesis to elucidate the contribution of these stages to the overall anaerobic removal. Moreover, the removal mechanisms and factors influencing them were investigated. To this purpose, a fermentation reactor was operated and fed with two different substrates: starch (to jointly evaluate hydrolysis and acidogenesis) and glucose (to isolate acidogenesis). Results indicate that sulfamethoxazole was highly biotransformed (>80 %), while galaxolide, celestolide, tonalide, erythromycin, roxithromycin, trimethoprim, octylphenol and nonylphenol achieved a 50-80 % biotransformation. Since no significant differences in the biotransformation efficiencies were found between starch and glucose fermentation, it is stated that the enzymatic activities involved in starch hydrolysis do not significantly contribute to the cometabolic biotransformation of OMPs, while acidogenesis appears as the major player. Moreover, a higher biotransformation (≥15 percentage points and p ≤ 0.05) was found for galaxolide, celestolide, tonalide, erythromycin and roxithromycin during acidogenesis in comparison with the efficiencies reported for the acetogenic/methanogenic step. The biotransformation of some OMPs was explained considering their chemical structure and the enzymatic activities.
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