Nonionic surfactants are high-volume chemicals and are used in detergent applications. Biodegradation and sorption are important environmental processes which largely determine the fate of these compounds. It is often assumed that sorption inhibits biodegradation by lowering the concentrations in the water phase. In this study the relationship between sorption and biodegradation was investigated by comparing the biodegradation in water with and without added sterilised activated sludge. It appeared that the biodegradation of nonionic surfactants was not inhibited by the presence of sterilised activated sludge, although the disappearance of the nonionic surfactant was slower in the sludge than in the water phase. © 1993 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
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