A strategy for removal of heavy metals and phenol from wastewaters is proposed. It involves consecutive cation biosorption by fungi, phenol biodegradation by the yeast association Candida sp. 2326 + Candida sp. 2327 and regeneration. Copper and cobalt removal from aqueous solutions containing 80–120 mg/L phenol by biosorption, using Rhizopus archizus cells immobilized onto poly(vinyl alcohol), was investigated by conducting a series of batch experiments. The removal efficiencies were 81% for Cu and 5% for Co. The residual concentrations of Cu (1.9 mg/L) and of Co (9.5 mg/L) did not change the biodegradation dynamics of phenol. A quantitative biodegradation of 120 mg/L phenol proceeded within 22 h. After biodegradation of phenol, the removal efficiencies achieved by biosorption after regeneration were 90% for Cu and 44% for Co. It was found that copper and cobalt form positively charged complexes with phenol. This complex formation hinders the retention of Cu and Co by the biosorbent and reduces the uptake of their cations.
Keywords: biodegradation, biosorption, cobalt, copper, phenol