1991 Finalist
Town of Harwich, Massachusetts
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

The Solar Aquatic Wastewater Treatment Project, a joint initiative of the City of Harwich and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is an alternative waste treatment facility. It is designed, developed, and operated to demonstrate that municipal septage may be treated using the balanced interaction of sunlight, water, oxygen, plants, and animals (solar aquatics), to a level of purification superior to conventional treatment methods. This program is the first large-scale attempt at using Solar Aquatics System (SAS) technology to purify waste from household and business septic tanks.

The need for this sustainable and cost-effective technology arose from the growing problem of septage and sewage waste management in Harwich and throughout the Commonwealth. On Cape Cod and elsewhere, many costly conventional waste treatment facilities have repeatedly failed either to meet water quality standards required by operating permits or to produce useful, non-toxic byproducts.

The SAS technology addresses these problems by consistently producing effluent of drinking water quality at 50 percent or less of the cost of conventional treatment methods while providing a productive environment for on-site horticulture and fish farming.

The single most important achievement to date is that the solar aquatic program has demonstrated that it is possible and practical to apply the SAS technology to the treatment of municipal septage. While it began as a pilot project, this solar aquatics septage treatment plant now effectively treats approximately one-third of Harwich’s daily septage. The success of the prototype will enable its expansion to meet the town's current and future treatment needs. It will also facilitate the transfer of this technology throughout the world.