Many wastes generated by industry, at hazardous wastes sites and at landfill experience shock loads of inhibitory organic compounds which can upset biological treatment systems. Biofilm reactors can be used to treat these wastes. However, the continuous flow mode operation normally used results in biofilm stratification and uneven biomass distribution that limits the ability of biofilm processes to treat shock loads. Periodic operation of biofilm reactors is advantageous because even biomass distribution can be obtained. In addition, data from membrane sequencing batch biofilm reactors indicates that periodic operation imposes regular variations in substrate concentration on the biofilm. As a result, organisms throughout the film achieve maximum growth rates which cause physiological adaptations that can improve biofilm response to shock loads.

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