Aerobic biodegradation of the phenols: phenol, 2-methylphenol, 4-methylphenol, 2,4-dimethylphenol, 3,5-dimethylphenol and 2,4,6-trimethylphenol was studied in a biofilm reactor to establish kinetic constants under conditions where the phenols were the sole carbon sources. Phenol concentrations were very low, in the µg/l concentration range. 2,4,6-trimethylphenol was not degraded. The degradation of the other phenols was 1'st order at concentrations in the bulk phase below 20-50 µg/l. Zero order reaction seemed to govern the reaction above 200 µg/l. The l'st order rate constants are 3-30 times higher than the constants calculated for easily degradable organic compounds degraded at 100-1000 times higher concentrations (mg/l range). However, the maximum phenol utilization rates and the Monod constants were much lower compared with constants obtained for the microorganisms grown in the mg/l concentration range. The Monod constant was about 100 times lower. The removal of “total biodegradable phenol” (TB-phenol) was very similar to the removal of a specific compound. The degradation of TB-phenol was l'st order at concentrations below 200 µg/l. When the total biodegradable phenol degradation is near its maximum capacity (o'order reaction) there was a preferential degradation of the most easily degradable phenols, phenol and 2-methylphenol, leading to an apparent inhibition of the degradation of the more slowly degradable phenols, in particular 2,4-dimethylphenol and 3,5-dimethylphenol.

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