Anaerobic degradation of sludge amended with linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS) was tested in a one stage continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) and a two stage reactor system consisting of a CSTR as first step and upflow anaerobic sludge bed (UASB) reactor as the second step. Anaerobic removal of LAS was only observed at the second step but not at the first step. Removal of LAS in the UASB reactors was approx. 80% where half was due to absorption and the other half was apparently due to biological removal as shown from the LAS mass balance. At the end of the experiment the reactors were spiked with 14C-LAS which resulted in 5.6% 14CO2 in the produced gas. Total mass balance of the radioactivity was however not achieved. In batch experiments it was found that LAS at concentrations higher than 50 mg/l is inhibitory for most microbial groups of the anaerobic process. Therefore, low initial LAS concentration is a prerequisite for successful LAS degradation. The results from the present study suggest that anaerobic degradation of LAS is possible in UASB reactors when the concentration of LAS is low enough to avoid inhibition of microorganisms active in the anaerobic process.

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