This research was carried out on a full-scale pure oxygen thermophilic plant, operated and monitored throughout a period of 11 years. The plant treats 60,000 t y−1 (year 2013) of high-strength industrial wastewaters deriving mainly from pharmaceuticals and detergents production and landfill leachate. Three different plant configurations were consecutively adopted: (1) biological reactor + final clarifier and sludge recirculation (2002–2005); (2) biological reactor + ultrafiltration: membrane biological reactor (MBR) (2006); and (3) MBR + nanofiltration (since 2007). Progressive plant upgrading yielded a performance improvement chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiency was enhanced by 17% and 12% after the first and second plant modification, respectively. Moreover, COD abatement efficiency exhibited a greater stability, notwithstanding high variability of the influent load. In addition, the following relevant outcomes appeared from the plant monitoring (present configuration): up to 96% removal of nitrate and nitrite, due to denitrification; low-specific biomass production (0.092 kgVSS kgCODremoved−1), and biological treatability of residual COD under mesophilic conditions (BOD5/COD ratio = 0.25–0.50), thus showing the complementarity of the two biological processes.

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