A down-flow hanging sponge (DHS) reactor, constructed by connecting three identical treatment units in series, was fed with highly saline artificial coke-plant wastewater containing 1400 mg L-1 of phenol in terms of chemical oxygen demand (COD) and 500 mg-N L-1 of ammonium nitrogen. The COD was removed by the 1st unit, achieving 92% removal at an average COD loading rate of 3.0 kg-COD m-3 d-1 for all units, with oxidation of ammonium nitrogen occurring primarily in the two downstream units. Microbial assays of the different units of the reactor revealed greater numbers of nitrifying bacteria in the 2nd and 3rd units than in the 1st unit, corresponding with the observed ammonium oxidation pattern of the reactor. These findings suggest that a succession of microflora was successfully established along the DHS.
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