Methanogenesis from formaldehyde mainly occurred via intermediates as confirmed by the increased concentrations of methanol and H2 in the liquid and gas phases respectively during formaldehyde conversion. While formaldehyde was readily transformed, the methane production rate was immediately and strongly inhibited. Formaldehyde toxicity was in part reversible since the methane production rate recovered after formaldehyde depletion. This recovery can not be explained by biomass growth. The toxicity of formaldehyde was also in part irreversible, since the degree of recovery was not complete. This loss in the methane production rate likely can be attributed to biomass decay as suggested by its linear relation with the amount of formaldehyde dosed, as well as by scanning electron microscopy observations. The addition of the same amount of formaldehyde either in a slug or in a continuous mode caused the same loss in the methane production rate. Thus for the treatment of formaldehyde-containing streams, a balance between loss in the rate (formaldehyde-related decay) and bacterial growth should be attained. By combining good biomass retention and internal dilution of the wastewater, industrial streams containing formaldehyde can still be treated anaerobically.

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