The effects of phenol, 2-chlorophenol (2-CP), 2,4-dichlorophenol (2,4-DCP) and 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene (1,2,4-TCB) on the biodegradation kinetics of the conventional activated sludge system (CASS) and the selector activated sludge system (SASS) were investigated. Experiments were carried out using a respirometric method on unacclimated biomass from two lab-scale systems that were operated with the sludge age of 8 days. Toxicity of the test compounds for both reactors were arranged according to EC(50) (effective concentration) values in order as: 1,2,4-TCB > 2,4-DCP > 2-CP > phenol. All selected test compounds induced higher inhibition effect in the CASS. The SASS appeared to reduce inhibition effect in comparison to the CASS, by 21.36%, 66.95%, 64.37% and 33.33% for phenol, 2-CP, 2,4-DCP and 1,2,4-TCB, respectively. Consequently, the SASS may be recommended as a promising configuration alternative for the waste streams containing toxic compounds. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.