The nutristat, a substrate concentration-controlled continuous culture, was used to grow pentachlorophenol (PCP)-degrading microorganisms. The PCP concentration control system consisted of on-line measurement of the PCP concentration in the culture vessel with a tangential filter and a flowthrough spectrophotometer. With PCP concentrations between 45 and 77 microM, a stable situation was established in the nutristat, with an average dilution rate of 0.035 +/- 0.003 h-1. Compared with those of fed-batch cultures and chemostat cultures, the growth rates of microorganisms in the PCP nutristat were significantly higher, leading to considerable time savings in the enrichment procedure. In addition, PCP accumulation to severe inhibitory levels in the culture is prevented because the set point determines the (maximum) PCP concentration in the culture. The use of the nutristat as a tool for the growth of bacteria that degrade toxic compounds is discussed.