The effect of 2,4,5- and 2,4,6-trichlorophenol on the microbiota from a polluted and a pristine site of a river was studied. Bacterial metabolic activity measurements by epifluorescence microscopy showed that the polluted site contained more metabolically active cells than the pristine site. Total culturable bacterial counts and tolerant bacterial counts from both sites were not affected by incubation (for up to 5 days) with 200 ppm of chlorophenols. However, the incubation with 500 ppm of 2,4,5-trichlorophenol prevented detection of total and tolerant bacterial counts in the pristine site, and inhibited tolerants in the polluted site. None of 250 bacterial colonies directly isolated from these samples was able to grow on chlorophenols. However, bacteria able to grow on 2,4,6-trichlorophenol, were obtained by enrichment of water and sediments samples.