The effect of the inoculum source on the digestion of linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS) under anaerobic conditions has been investigated. The potential for primary and ultimate LAS biodegradation of anaerobic sludge samples obtained from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) of different geographical locations was studied applying a batch test system. It was found that only 4–22% of the LAS added to the batch anaerobic digesters was primarily transformed suggesting a poor primary degradation of the LAS molecule in anaerobic discontinuous systems. Regarding ultimate biodegradation, the addition of LAS to the batch anaerobic digesters caused a reduction on the extent of biogas production. Significant differences in the inhibition extent of the biogas production were observed (4–26%) depending on the sludge used as inoculum. Effect of the surfactant on the anaerobic microorganisms was correlated with its concentration in the aqueous phase. Sorption of LAS on anaerobic sludge affects its toxicity by depletion of the available fraction of the surfactant. LAS content on sludge was related to the total amount of calcium and magnesium extractable ions. The presence of divalent cations promote the association of LAS with anaerobic sludge reducing its bioavailability and the extent of its inhibitory effect on the biogas production.
Keywords: anaerobic degradation - anaerobic sludge - biogas production - LAS - sorption - toxicity