About 20 miles from the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR), the community of Harwich is treating its septage in a greenhouse. The facility treats 5,000 gallons of septage per day and returns sewage-free water to the aquifer. To begin the process, trucks bring the septage from homes and businesses to the greenhouse, situated near the Harwich town dump. The septage moves through large, transparent tanks that are full of bacteria, algae, water hyacinths, and trees that put down roots in the sludge. All these help break down the sludge; roots absorb some of the toxins while bacteria consume others.
The effluent from these tanks then goes on through an artificial marsh that contains gravel, grasses, and small flowers. The filtering process continues with more tanks and more marshes until at last the water is clean enough to be returned to the aquifer.
The greenhouse is a warm, pleasant, leafy place to enjoy a picnic lunch, which many people do. There's no bad smell, and Harwich residents enjoy the greenhouse's mix of lush plant life and environmental responsibility.