The influence of oxygen pressure (0.4 and 2 MPa). reaction time (30 and 60 min) and temperature (260 and 280 degrees C) on the wet oxidation of quinoline has been studied. The dominant parameters for the decomposition of quinoline were oxygen pressure and reaction temperature. whereas the reaction time was less important within the range studied. Nitrifying bacteria were used to measure the inhibition from wet oxidative-treated samples to study the effect of the (wet oxidation) reaction conditions. Wet oxidation made quinoline more toxic to Nitrosomonas. This was observed for Nitrobacter as well if low oxygen pressure or long reaction times were used. The reaction products derived from the experiment in which quinoline was mostly decomposed were studied with respect to biological degradation. The results showed that these products were highly digestible under activated sludge treatment. The combined wet oxidation and biological treatment of reaction products resulted in 91% oxidation of the parent compound to CO2 and water. Following combined wet oxidation and biological treatment the sample showed low toxicity towards Nitrosomonas and no toxicity towards Nitrobacter. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.