The performance stability and its recovery mechanisms of a partial nitritation-anammox process were investigated. A one-stage airlift enhanced micro-granules (AEM) system was operated for 650 days continuously to treat 50 mg-NH4/L wastewater. During the stable stage, a high nitrogen removal efficiency of 72.7 ± 8.4% lasting for 230 days was successfully achieved under 0.28 L/min aeration rate and 0.10–0.20 mg/L dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration. A microbial consortium with good granularity appeared in red. The specific activity of anammox and ammonia oxidation increased to 1.02 and 0.93 g-N/g-VSS/d, respectively. Meanwhile, the microbial analysis showed the AEM system shifted the dominant microflora from Proteobacteria to Planctomycetes in which Candidatus Brocadia abundance reached a high of 35.0%. The results reveal that the long-term airlift-aeration promoted granulation and further enhanced activities, the abundances of anammox bacteria, and suppressed nitrite-oxidizing bacteria. Optimizing the DO control is also critical for stability increment and process recovery.
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