Abstract A modified anoxic/oxic-membrane bioreactor has been applied to the denitrification of a high strength nitrate waste (about 3600 mg/L nitrate-N) generated from an initiating explosive factory. Nitrate removal efficiency and nitrite accumulation in the treated water were investigated under various conditions set by several factors including the type of carbon source used, ratios of carbon to nitrogen, pH and hydraulic retention times (HRTs). The results of the preliminary experiments, which were carried out in parallel CSTR systems, demonstrated that sodium acetate had shown the best performance as the external carbon source. The optimal reaction parameters in the anoxic/oxic-membrane bioreactor were pH 7.5–8.5, C/N 1.56 and HRT 30 h, with over 99.9% of nitrate removed and without accumulation of nitrite. Explicitly high average-specific denitrification rate of 324 mg NO 3 −-N/g VSS/h could be attained under these conditions. The aerobic process and membrane module used subsequently could remove the residual COD, excessive biomass and soluble microbial products generated during the denitrification process.