Low-temperature or psychrophilic (<20 degrees C) anaerobic digestion (PAD) has recently been demonstrated as a cost-effective option for the treatment of a range of wastewater categories. The aim of this work was 2-fold: (1) to screen three anaerobic sludges, obtained from full-scale reactors, with respect to suitability for PAD of pharmaceutical-like, solvent-contaminated wastewater; (2) to assess the feasibility of PAD of this wastewater category. Toxicity thresholds of key trophic groups within three candidate biomass samples were assessed against solvents prevalent in pharmaceutical wastewaters (propanol, methanol and acetone). Specific methanogenic activity (SMA) assays indicated that the metabolic optimum of each candidate biomass was within the mesophilic range. One biomass sample exhibited higher SMA assays than the other candidate samples and was also the sample least methanogenically inhibited by the addition of solvents to batch cultures. This sludge was selected as the biomass of choice for laboratory-scale trials. Two identical expanded granular sludge bed (EGSB)-based anaerobic reactors were used for the treatment of solvent-contaminated wastewater at 15 degrees C, and at applied organic loading rates (OLRs) of 5-20 kg chemical oxygen demand (COD) m(-3)d(-1). COD removal efficiencies of 60-70% were achieved during the 450 day trial. In addition, SMA assays carried out at the conclusion of the trial indicated the development of a putatively psychrophilic hydrogenotrophic methanogenic community (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.