The objective of this study is to investigate the potential of the activated rice husk to be used as an alternative adsorbent to powdered activated carbon (PAC) in the simultaneous adsorption and biodegradation processes under sequencing batch reactor (SBR) operation to treat synthetic wastewater containing phenol, p-methylphenol, p-ethylphenol and p-isopropylphenol. The rice husk (PRH) was activated by pyrolysis at 600°C for 5 hours in a nitrogen atmosphere. Using the Langmuir model, the limiting adsorption capacities of PRH for the phenols were found to vary from 0.015-0.05 of those of PAC. The SBR reactors with and without adsorbent addition were operated with fill, react, settle, draw and idle periods in the ratio of 4:6:1:0.75:0.25 for a cycle time of 12 hours. For phenolic wastewater containing, 1,200 mg/L phenol, 1,200 mg/L p-methylphenol, 800 mg/L p-ethylphenol and 650 mg/L p-isopropylphenol, it was found that the biodegradation process alone was unable to produce effluent of quality which would satisfy the discharge standards of COD ≤ 100 mg/L and phenol concentration ≤1 mg/L. The addition of PAC in the ratio of PAC/phenolic compound at 0.095 g/g for phenol, 0.119 g/g for p-methylphenol, 0.179 g/g for p-ethylphenol and 0.220 g/g for p-isopropylphenol, can improve the effluent quality to satisfy the discharge standards. Equivalent treatment performance was achieved with the use of PRH at dosages of 2-3 times higher than those of PAC for all the phenolic wastewater studied. The increased adsorption capacity of PRH shown in the treatment indicates bioregeneration of the adsorbed surface during the treatment process.

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