A conventional activated sludge reactor operated with short cycled aeration was used for total nitrogen removal of UASB anaerobic reactor effluent containing nitrogen (up to 1,200 mg NKT/L) and organic matter (up to 2,000 mg COD/L). Initially the reactor was fed with synthetic water to progressively introduce the UASB effluent. This favored the acclimation of the microorganisms to the real environment. The results obtained throughout this study showed that initially the tested technology is feasible and can report significant cuts on operation and maintenance when compared to conventional activated sludge processes. Total nitrogen removal up to 66% was attained treating the effluent of an UASB process designed for treating the wastewater of a potato starch factory. Total nitrogen removal capacities ranging between 0.1 and 0.58 kg of nitrogen per cubic metre per day are reported. Short-cycled aeration allowed for a more efficient use of the oxygen supply for nitrification and the organic carbon content present in the wastewater for denitrification.

This operating protocol has demonstrated serious advantages in terms of operation costs and simplicity when total nitrogen removal is wanted. Most of the existing activated sludge processes, i.e. single continuous flow reactors, can be updated for total nitrogen removal essentially at no cost, the inversion (aeration control system) is rapidly returned as reduction in energy expenditure.

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