Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor that was seeded with anaerobic sludge acclimated to chlorophenols was used to investigate the feasibility of anaerobic biotreatment of synthetic wastewater containing pentachlorophenol (PCP) with additional sucrose as carbon source. Two sets of UASB reactors were operated at one time. But the seeded sludge for the two reactors was different and Reactor I was seeded with the sludge that was acclimated to PCP completely for half a year, and Reactor II was seeded with the mixed sludge that was acclimated for half a year to PCP, 4-CP, 3-CP or 2-CP, respectively. The degradation of PCP and the operation fee treating the wastewater are affected by the concentration of MEDS (microorganism easily degradable substrate). So the confirmation of the suitable ratio of [COD] and [PCP] was the key factor of treating the wastewater containing PCP economically and efficiently. During the experiment, the synthetic wastewater with 180.0 mg L −1 PCP and 1250–10000 mg L −1 COD could be treated steadily in the experimental Reactor I. The removal efficiency of PCP was more than 99.5% and the removal efficiency of COD was up to 90%. [PCP] (concentration of PCP) in effluent was less than 0.5 mg L −1. [PCP] in influent could affect proper [COD] (concentration of COD) range in influent that was required for maintenance of steady running of the experimental reactor with a hydraulic retention time (HRT) from 20 to 22 h. [PCP] in influent would directly affect the necessary [COD] in influent when the UASB reactor ran normally and treated the wastewater containing PCP. When [PCP] was 100.4, 151.6 and 180.8 mg L −1 in influent, respectively, [COD] in influent had to be controlled about 1250–7500, 2500–5000 and 5000 mg L −1 to maintain the UASB reactor steady running normally and contemporarily ensure that [COD] and [PCP] in effluent were less than 300 and 0.5 mg L −1, respectively. With the increase of [PCP] in influent, the range of variation of [COD] in influent endured by the UASB reactor was decreasing. The ratios of [COD] and [PCP] in influent could affect removal efficiency of PCP and COD, the concentration of total volatile fatty acids (VFA) in effluent, biogas quantity and methane content in biogas. [PCP] in influent was linearly or semi-logarithmically correlated to [COD] in effluent when [COD] in influent was 5750 ± 250 mg L −1, and so was the relationship between [COD] in influent and [PCP] in effluent when [PCP] in influent was 100.4 or 151.6 mg L −1, less than the maximum permissible [PCP]. The sources of seeded sludge, the way of sludge acclimation and the characteristics of anaerobic sludge could all affect the UASB reactor capacity treating PCP. When [PCP] were less than 180.8 mg L −1 for Reactor I and 151.6 mg L −1 for Reactor II, the variation of [PCP] in influent had little effect on the UASB reactor volume gas production rate and substrate gas production rate. And [VFA] and pH value in effluent were affected a little. Volume biogas production rate and substrate biogas production rate of the UASB reactor were only affected by [COD] and loading rate in influent. But when [PCP] was more than 151.6 mg L −1 for Reactor II, the biogas production fell quickly and was over 3 days later. [VFA] in effluent from Reactor II increased up to 2198.1 mg L −1 quickly and the pH value fell to less than 7. Reactor II could not run normally. The component of VFA accumulated quickly was mainly acetate (above 50%). With [PCP] increased from 7.9 to 180.8 mg L −1 gradually in influent, the methane content in biogas from Reactor II decreased from 70% to 60%, but the reactor could still run normally. Then as for Reactor II, the content of methane have fallen from 75% to 45% or so quickly. And Reactor II could not run steadily. So the conclusion could be drown that too high [PCP] in influent for UASB reactor mainly inhibited the activity of methane-producing bacteria cultures utilizing the acetate.

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