Treatment of wastewater containing high phenol concentrations (up to 4,000 mg/l, 1,600 kg/ha.d) in laboratory-scale stabilisation ponds enriched with activated sludge was studied. Phenol was biodegraded efficiently, even when fed as the sole carbon source. At influent concentrations of 1,000, 1,300, 1,600, 1,900, 2,500, 3,000 and 4,000 mg/l of phenol (loading rates of 400, 520, 640, 760, 1,000, 1,200 and 1,600 kg phenol/ha.d), the phenol removal efficiencies were 92, 89, 81, 81, 76, 65 and 22%, respectively. At 4,000 mg/l of phenol, the enriched ponds were significantly inhibited. The maximum phenol removal rate observed was 780 kg/ha.d, which is 7.7 times higher than the maximum value reported for attached-growth waste stabilisation ponds. All along the experiments, the enriched ponds showed removal rates 1.8–20.5 times higher than the values observed in control pond (not enriched). The results suggest that enrichment is an effective method to increase xenobiotic removal rates of stabilisation ponds.

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