An expanded-bed GAC anaerobic reactor was employed to investigate the effect of empty bed detention time, sludge age, and chemical oxygen demand (COD) loading on process performance during the treatment of a coal conversion wastewater. The toxicity of the wastewater to the anaerobic culture was overcome by periodic partial replacement of the reactor medium with fresh GAC. The first phase of this study determined the minimum GAC replacement rate required to successfully treat the wastewater at a COD loading of 11 g-COD/kg-GAC-day. The second phase investigated the dependance of the system performance on hydraulic retention time and the volumetric COD loading rate. Very high organic removal efficiencies, as well as approximately fifty percent conversion of the influent COD to methane gas were achieved even at empty-bed hydraulic retention times as low as 7 hours.

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