Abstract An industrial wastewater that was pretreated by an aerobic thermophilic bacterial consortium (THE) was subjected to additional treatability studies by granular activated carbon (GAC) and a conventional activated sludge (CAS). The removal of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in both systems was generally found to be similar. While GAC was able to attain better effluent concentrations of toluene and methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), the CAS was much more efficient at removing acetone. Furthermore, unlike the GAC, the performance of the CAS was not influenced by the high degree of variability in the influent wastewater . Characterization of the influent thermophilic wastewater using gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) was performed to quantify the micropollutants as well as to evaluate removal efficiencies from the GAC and CAS systems.