Wastewater high in phenolic content (948 mg/l) and dissolved solids (5.4 g/l) had to be treated to remove most of the organic material and toxic compounds. A laboratory scale High Pressure (3 bar) Bioreactor (HPB) was developed and operated to treat the wastewater using a ceramic ultra filtration membrane as biomass separator. The performance of the system was compared to a normal activated sludge plant (ASP) using sludge settling for separation. The HPB was more stable than the ASP, which twice became unstable with a resulting biomass loss. Both reactors removed 90% of the chemical oxygen demand (COD) loading, reducing the phenol concentration below 20 mg/l. The maximum COD removal rate of the HPB was 28 kg/m3.d compared to 15 kg/m3.d of the ASP, while the HPB achieved 16-32 times better oxygen transfer than the ASP. It was concluded that the HPB was the preferred treatment system compared to the ASP, when treating high strength inhibitory wastewaters, due to its stable operating performance and high COD removal rate.

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