The adsorption of TS-1S and TS-2C tar sand waters were studied at 278 and 298 K on activated carbon in both batch and packed bed experiments. The isotherms were nonlinear over the entire liquid concentration ranges. Breakthrough curves were obtained in packed bed experiments as a function of bed lengths, particle size, and liquid velocity. A mechanistic approach was used to solve the mass transfer equations for the packed adsorber, the mass transfer coefficients and the rates of adsorption were calculated. Also the breakthrough curves were analyzed to establish the relative importance of the various individual mechanisms that contributed to the overall adsorption process.