An experimental program was conducted to evaluate the significance of enhanced biodegradation, bioregeneration, and metabolic end product (MEP) adsorption in a bench-scale biophysical reactor using phenol as the substrate. Radiotracer methods and a desorption-extraction procedure that measures the amount of adsorbed phenol were used to discriminate between the various mechanisms. The results showed the major benefit of PAC addition under steady-state conditions to be MEP adsorption. Furthermore, adsorption reversibility was established as the controlling mechanism for bioregeneration. Reversibly adsorbed phenol could be desorbed to regenerate the PAC, but irreversibly adsorbed MEP could not. PAC, therefore, acts as a storage reservoir during shock loads via an adsorption-desorption sequence.

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