In recent years a completely autotrophic nitrogen removal process based on Anammox biomass has been tested in a few European countries in order to treat anaerobic supernatant and to increase the COD/N ratio in municipal wastewater. This work reports experimental results on a possible technical solution to upgrade the S. Colombano treatment plant which treats wastewater from the Florentine urban area. The idea is to use 50% of the volume of the anaerobic digester in order to treat external sewage sludge (as septic tank sludge) together with waste activated sludge and to treat the resulting effluent on a SHARON-ANAMMOX process in order to remove nitrogen from the anaerobic supernatant. Anaerobic co-digestion, tested in a 200 L pilot plant, enables low cost treatment of septic tank sludge and increases biogas production; however, it also increases the nitrogen load re-circulated to the WWTP, where nitrogen removal efficiency is already low (<50%), due to the low COD/N ratio, which limits predenitrification efficiency. Experimental results from a SHARON process tested in a lab-scale pilot plant show that nitrite oxidising bacteria are washed-out and steady nitrite production can be achieved at retention times in the range 1–1.5 days, at 35 °C. In a lab-scale SBR reactor, coupled with a nitration bioreactor, maximum specific nitrogen removal rate under nitrite-limiting conditions (with doubling time equal to about 26 days at 35 °C) was equal to 0.22 kgN/kgSSV/d, about 44 times the rate measured in inoculum Anammox sludge. Finally, a cost analysis of the proposed upgrade is reported.

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