Aeration phase length control and step-feed of wastewater are used to achieve nitrogen removal from wastewater via nitrite in sequencing batch reactors (SBR). Aeration is switched off as soon as ammonia oxidation is completed, which is followed by the addition of a fraction of the wastewater that the SBR receives over a cycle to facilitate denitrification. The end-point of ammonia oxidation is detected from the on-line measured pH and oxygen uptake rate (OUR). The method was implemented in an SBR achieving biological nitrogen and phosphorus removal from anaerobically pre-treated abattoir wastewater. The degree of nitrite accumulation during the aeration period was monitored along with the variation in the nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB) population using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) techniques. It is demonstrated that the nitrite pathway could be repeatedly and reliably achieved, which significantly reduced the carbon requirement for nutrient removal. Model-based studies show that the establishment of the nitrite pathway was primarily the result of a gradual reduction of the amount of nitrite that is available to provide energy for the growth of NOB, eventually leading to the elimination of NOB from the system. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2008;100: 1228–1236. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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