Pentachlorophenol (PCP) dechlorination by a methanogenic consortium was observed when glucose, formate, lactate, or yeast extract was present in the mineral medium as a secondary carbon source. Acetate was not a good substrate to sustain dechlorination. The consortium was able to dechlorinate the different monochlorophenols, although the chlorine in position ortho and meta was removed more readily than in para position. Dechlorination was most efficient at 37 degrees C. At 45 degrees C, the first PCP dechlorination steps were very rapid, but 3,5-dichlorophenol (3,5-DCP) was not further dechlorinated. At 15 and 4 degrees C, dechlorination was very slow. The dechlorination of PCP to 3-chlorophenol (3-CP) was still observed after the consortium had been subjected to heat treatment (80 degrees C, 60 min), suggesting that spore-forming bacteria were responsible. The dechlorinating activity of the consortium was significantly reduced by the presence of hydrogen, 2-bromoethanosulfonic acid (BESA), or sulfate but not of nitrate. The dechlorination of 3-CP was completely inhibited by heat treatment or the presence of BESA, suggesting that a syntrophic microorganism would be involved. Vigorous agitation of the consortium stopped the dechlorination, but the presence of DEAE-Sephacel acting as a support was very efficient in restoring the activity, suggesting that association between certain members of the consortium was important.