This study focused on the investigation of (i) the tetrachloroethene (PCE) toxicity threshold of a reductively dechlorinating mixed culture containing Dehalococcoides spp., (ii) the adsorption of PCE on different types of granular activated carbon (GAC), and (iii) the bioavailability and reductive dechlorination in the presence of GAC. The abundance of Dehalococcoides spp. detected by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was found to increase by 2-4 orders of magnitude during degradation of PCE. No degradation occurred at dissolved concentrations beyond 420 mu M (70 mg/L). Different adsorption isotherms were determined for thermally and chemically activated carbons. The addition of GAC to biological assays reduced the dissolved PCE concentration below the toxicity threshold. The combination of microbial reductive dechlorination with GAC adsorption proved to be a promising method for remediation of groundwater contaminated by high concentrations of chloroethenes. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.