The Generalitat Valenciana, through the Department of Innovation, Industry, Commerce and Tourism, is financing the development of a project aimed at detecting, identifying, quantifying and characterizing the emerging contaminantspresent in the wastewater from the city of Valenciasuch as medicines and other chemicals and materials potentially hazardous to human health and the environment.

This new system for analyzing and controlling the sanitation network, based on epidemiological techniques similar to those already used to monitor the presence of the SARS-COV-2 virus during the pandemic, will also allow will analyze the evolution of these compounds once said water flows have been subjected to treatment. In this way, valuable information will be collected on the habits and lifestyle of the population in different areas of the city.

This strategic project, named ‘Moresan‘, is the result of the collaboration of the Technological Institute of Plastics (Aimplas), the Institute of Water and Environmental Engineering of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (IIAMA-UPV), the group Calagua from the University of Valencia (UV) and the companies Intercontrol Levante and Seqplexing. In addition, he has the Economic support from the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI) and funding from the European Union under the FEDER program of the Valencian Community for the period 2021-2027.

Thanks to this initiative, information relating to antibiotic consumption will be obtained and the presence of other potentially harmful contaminants, such as microplastics, applying lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis.

“With the pandemic, the potential for wastewater monitoring assess the incidence and prevalence of the virus in the population. In addition, he stressed the importance of adequate sectorization in the basin to establish the relationship between the viral load measured in wastewater samples and the infected inhabitants of the basin. Joaquin SerraltaIIAMA principal investigator on the project.

“The identification and selection of emerging contaminants under study correspond to Aimplas and will be carried out according to their incidence and their dangerousness. Among them are antibiotics because they are substances directly linked to the presence of resistant genes, as well as other contaminants of interest such as microplastics or perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS),” he explains. Maria LorenzoAimplas principal investigator on the project.

The initiative, which began this year, will benefit from the collaboration of the Valencia City Hall, through the Integral Water Cycle Service, and the Water Sanitation Entity (Epsar), which will allow access the sampling points of the sewer network and treatment plants. to monitor these substances and compounds throughout the treatment process. This information will make it possible to carry out actions that minimize its impact on sewage and wastewater treatment plants, as well as on the natural environment.

Development of predictive models

There are currently no standardized protocols for the analysis of emerging contaminants in urban sanitation systems. Additionally, the monitoring process is expensive and the data obtained is difficult to interpret. This is why the “Moresan” project is committed to the development of predictive models capable of estimating concentration of these chemicals with a reduced number of sampling campaigns, collection points and number of analyzes to be carried out.

“From the samples taken during the various sampling campaigns which will be carried out in the sanitation network, the work of the IIAMA Biomica group and the sequencing company Seqplexing will mainly focus on the preparation, extraction of DNA and RNA and their packaging for subsequent sequencing. with the aim of detecting antibiotic resistance genes”, they explain. Jose Luis Alonsohead of this IIAMA research group and Carmen Iborrascientific director of Seqplexing.

With the results obtained, a database will be generated which will link the values ​​of contaminants by date and geographical location, and conventional environmental parameters such as temperature, flow, seasonality, socio-economic level or the presence of centers of health, among others.

Analysis of socio-economic factors

The incorporation of socio-economic factors is another of the new contributions of the project, since it will allow link the presence of micropollutants with aspects such as the type of neighborhood (residential or commercial), income level or the distance between sampling points and hospitals, clinics or others place of interestAccording to the Calagua researcher, Luis Borras. This work will be carried out mainly by specialists from this research group, composed of the University of Valencia and the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

“Considering sociological factors is something new because it will allow us to obtain additional information on pollution patterns based on the socio-economic characteristics of different neighborhoods and areas of the city,” he concludes. Jose Ferrerhead of the Calagua-UPV Group.

This initiative is in line with the conclusions of the Specialized Strategic Innovation Committee (CEIE) in the circular economy, which advocates the development of tertiary recycling techniques and more efficient purification treatments. Likewise, “Moresan” is one of the pillars of the Smart Specialization Strategy of the Valencian Community, S3, coordinated by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Commerce and Tourism.