Nitrate can affect phosphate release and lead to reduced efficiency of biological phosphorus removal process. The inhibition effect of remaining nitrate at the anaerobic/anoxic phases was investigated in a lab scale sequencing batch reactor. In this study the influence of denitrification process on reactor performance and phosphorus removal was examined. The experiments were carried out through simultaneous filling and decanting, mixing, mixing-aeration and settling modes. Glucose and acetate were used as carbon sources. The proposed treatment system was capable of removing approximately 80% of the influent PO4-P, 98% NH4-N and 97% COD at a SRT of 25 days. In the fill/decant phase, anoxic and anaerobic conditions prevailed and a large quantity of nitrate was removed in this stage. In the anoxic phase the remaining nitrate concentration was, quickly reduced and a considerable amount of phosphate was released. This was attributed to the availability of acetate in this stage. For effective nitrogen and phosphate removal, a short anoxic phase was beneficial before an aerobic phase. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.