To study the pollution with pharmaceutical active compounds in wastewater and water bodies in Latvia and Lithuania, scientists, researchers and experts from both countries have been working together under a joint project for almost two years now. The project “Pharmaceuticals in wastewater–levels, impacts and reduction” is financed by the EU, and searching for a solution to reduce the pollution caused by pharmaceutical products is among the project’s key goals.
“Although many pharmaceuticals from various wastewater treatment plants enter the freshwater and saltwater in the Baltic Sea Region, no long-term and continuous studies on this type of pollution have been carried out in Latvia and Lithuania until now, resulting in lack of information,” explains one of the scientists participating in the project Dr Sergej Suzdalev from Klaipėda University. He says that presence of pharmaceutical compounds will be studied in 16 wastewater treatment plants in both countries and water and wastewater samples will be taken in July and December this year. The chemical analysis of the collected samples will be performed using state-of-the-art equipment of the Coastal Environment and Biogeochemistry Laboratory at the Marine Research Institute, Klaipėda University. The project manager researcher Ieva Putna-Nīmane from Daugavpils University Agency “Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology” points out that this kind of pollution is a topical issue. “Although there are some clues and data from the previous projects suggest that there is pollution with pharmaceutical active compounds in the territory of Latvia and Lithuania, as we use medications, we cannot make any comparative conclusions about its scale yet. Therefore, we are glad that the project MEDWwater was supported and has been launched.” She informed that, within the project, 25 pharmaceutical active compounds will be identified establishment of concentration of which in wastewater is recommended by the EU, together with substances used by the inhabitants of Latvia and Lithuania in comparatively big amounts. At the end of the project after studying the data obtained, the scientists will draw conclusions about the harm that presence of pharmaceutical active compounds may cause to the environment.
In cooperation with experienced foreign experts, recommendations and technical solutions for better removal of pharmaceutical active compounds will be provided to two operators of wastewater treatment plants. Having summarised the project results, experts will prepare recommendations for wastewater monitoring.
Along with the scientific research part, the project also includes an information, education and communication campaign about the adverse effect of pharmaceuticals on the environment and how to dispose of drugs after their expiration date or that are not used.
The project gathers scientists, environmental experts and other specialists from Daugavpils University Agency “Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology”, the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre, Kurzeme Planning Region, State Agency of Medicines, State Medicines Control Agency under the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, and Klaipėda University.
The project runs from February 2021 until the end of 2022. The overall budget amounts to nearly 700 thousand euro, and the co-financing by the European Regional Development Fund programme Interreg V-A Latvia-Lithuania Programme 2014-2020 is slightly above 572,000 euro.
According to the data of the State Medicines Control Agency under the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania and the State Agency of Medicines of the Republic of Latvia, the amount of medicines and pharmaceutical products sold increases year by year. The human body cannot assimilate and metabolise all substances contained by medicines or pharmaceutical products, thus part of them are discharged and, most often, arrive at wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the existing technologies of wastewater treatment plants in Latvia and Lithuania cannot fully remove pharmaceutical active compounds from wastewater, and these substances enter the surface waters and soil in a concentration that may harm the environment. Moreover, there are people who throw the old and not used medications away with household waste or flush them instead of dropping them off at pharmacy, and such behaviour increase the pollution even more!
One of the important steps that should be taken to reduce the environmental pollution with pharmaceutical active compounds, is taking the old and not used medications back to pharmacies where they are disposed of in a correct and safe manner.
Previously, Latvia and Lithuania participated in two international projects under which research about the pollution with pharmaceutical active compounds were implemented (CWPharma and Morpheus). The MEDWwater project is a continuation and the first big-scale research carried out in Latvia and Lithuania at the same time. Within this project, the concentration of substances will be detected in water bodies before and after wastewater treatment plants and in treated and untreated wastewaters, the environmental impact will be determined, and solutions will be searched for to improve the situation.
One of the project activities, the strategic document “Recommendations for wastewater treatment plants”, will allow better management of nature resources not only within the Programme’s territory but also on a national scale in Latvia and Lithuania.
This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Kurzeme Planning Region and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.
Information is prepared by
Project MEDWwater communication coordinator
Ph.: + 371 26306030
More about project:
Project in a nutshell.
February 1, 2021 – December 31, 2022
Total projects size is 673 772.88 EUR
Out of them co-funding of European Regional Development Fund is 572 706.92 EUR
Lead Partner – Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology Agency of Daugavpils University, www.lhei.lv, in cooperation with 5 partners from Latvia and Lithuania:
Kurzeme Planning Region, www.kurzemesregions.lv
Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre, www.videscentrs.lvgmc.lv
University of Klaipeda, www.ku.lt
State Agency of Medicines of Latvia, www.zva.gov.lv
State Medicines Control Agency under the Ministry of Health of Republic of Lithuania, www.vvkt.lt