Deammonification involves the combined application of aerobic and anoxic ammonium-oxidizing bacteria (AerAOB & AnAOB) and allows to treat wastewaters with a high ammonium concentration in a sustainable and cost-efficient way. So far, it could take more than one year to start up the process, even with the addition of AnAOB enriched inocula. In contrast, we started up a deammonifying reactor for the treatment of sludge digestate in less than four months without any AnAOB enriched inoculum. In a single sequencing batch reactor (SBR) of 3 m3, nitritation and anammox were performed without nitrite accumulation. Larger biomass aggregates (>1.0 mm) had a typical reddish colour, but FISH also showed that small aggregates (<0.25 mm) contained a considerable amount of AnAOB. The AerAOB were related to Nitrosomonas halophila, N. eutropha and N. halophila, and the AnAOB to “Candidatus Kuenenia & Brocadia”, as shown by FISH. Our results show that the deammonification inoculum does not play an important role, and that the AnAOB can quickly develop under the proper aerational conditions. Nitrogen was removed stably at high nitrogen loading rates (740 mg N/L/d) and removal efficiency (90%).

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