News Feature | November 6, 2013

World's Most Beautiful Sewage Plant?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,


Who is the fairest wastewater treatment plant of them all? 

It may be the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) in Rhinebeck, New York, according to a recent commentary. The plant is "the world's most beautiful wastewater treatment plant," TreeHugger declared. "Let this wastewater treatment plant show you how to live."

What's so special about it?

"Unlike other wastewater treatment plants, the OCSL does not use chemicals to treat the water, but rather mimics the processes of the [natural] world, such as using a combination of microorganisms, algae, plants and gravel and sand filtration to clean sewage water and return clean drinkable water back to the aquifer," the report said. 

The Omega Center is not a utility. It is part of an educational center, with a specific mission: "Through innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit, Omega provides hope and healing for individuals and society."

The architecture firm BNIM is responsible for the design. It was commissioned to create "a new highly sustainable wastewater filtration facility," the firm said. "The project showcases this ecological system in a building that houses the primary treatment cells and a classroom/laboratory."

Renewable energy sources are the centerpiece of the Omega Center's wastewater technology, the American Institute of Architects explained in a write-up about the center. 

"The entire building and water process use site-harvested renewable energy achieving a net-zero energy system. To achieve this goal the facility had to be free of waste (volume, material, energy), organized, and carefully tuned to harvest solar energy for passive heating and lighting, using the entire mass for thermal comfort," it said. 

Alternative wastewater solutions represent a growing technological field. 

"Choices for wastewater treatment have traditionally been limited to either a centralized municipal wastewater treatment plant or decentralized septic tanks and drainfields. There are now alternative wastewater treatment options available when using a decentralized approach," the Georgia Planning Association said

Wastewater Alternatives, Inc., based in New Hampshire, is one of many examples of a company trying to become a leader in this field. It markets what it says is an environmentally-friendly, cost-efficient wastewater technology known as the Clean Solution. Its system uses bacteria to clean effluent.

Want more product news? Click here for Water Online's analysis of 10 products that could change the industry. 

Image credit: "OCSL," © 2009 Milfodd, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: