Removal of Pb(II) by using resting cells of anaerobically digested sludge (ADS) obtained from a nearby wastewater treatment plant was examined. Firstly, sorption kinetic and equilibrium experiments were conducted using agitated, thermostated (25 degrees C) batch reactors. The maximum Pb(II) sorption capacity was found to be very high (1750 mg/g dry ADS or 8.45 mmol/g dry ADS). At all initial Pb(II) concentrations tested, sorption resulted in neutralization with an increase in the solution pH from an initial value of 4.0-5.5 to an equilibrium value of 7.0-8.0, at which Pb(II) can precipitate as hydroxide. The removal of Pb(II) by ADS was found to involve bioprecipitation as well as biosorption. FTIR spectrometry highlighted carboxyl groups present on the surface of ADS as the major functional groups responsible for biosorption. Secondly, a three-stage semi-continuous pseudo-counter current reactor system was tested to reduce ADS requirement in comparison to a conventional single-stage batch reactor. At an initial Pb(II) concentration of about 200 mg/L, an effluent Pb(II) concentration of 1.3 mg/L was achieved in the three stage reactor, corresponding to a metal removal capacity of 682.7 mg/g dry ADS (3.30 mmol/g), in comparison to 1.9 mg/L and 644.0 mg/g dry ADS (3.10 mmol/g) for the single-stage batch reactor. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.