Heterotrophic denitrification coexists with the anammox process contributing to N removal owing to the biodegradable organic matter supply from urban landfill leachate and the decay of microorganisms. Both biomasses consumed nitrite increasing the nitrite requirements of the system. The aim of this paper is the study of the causes which induce the system to decrease nitrogen removal efficiency. In this study, urban landfill leachate has been treated in an anammox Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) for 360 days. The anammox reactor treated on average 0.24 kgN m−3 d−1 obtaining nitrogen removal efficiencies up to 89%. The results demonstrated that i) a suitable influent nitrite to ammonium molar ratio is a crucial factor to avoid troubles in the anammox reactor performance; ii) an excess of nitrite implied nitrite accumulation in the reactor; iii) a lower nitrite supply than the necessary for the system could force a loss of specific anammox activity due to nitrite competition with denitrifiers. These results pointed out the importance of the previous partial-nitritation process control in order to obtain a correct influent nitrite to ammonium molar ratio for the anammox reactor. In addition, sudden variation of the leachate characteristics must be avoided.
Keywords: anammox process, biodegradable organic matter, heterotrophic denitrification, nitrite supply, urban landfill leachate