Continental Organics & Beacon Wastwater Treatment Plant

On Thursday, 6/12, RiverU took a tour of the local wastewater treatment plant in Beacon and Continental Organics/Aquaponics located in New Windsor.

Continental Organics  greenhouse, New Windsor, NY

Continental Organics greenhouse, New Windsor, NY

The Beacon Wastewater Treatment facility was established in 1913 and is still functioning today at the same location. Early in the morning, we toured this facility, which takes in both gray and black water from the city of Beacon. It is monitored and treated until it is legally safe enough to be discharged into the Hudson River.

The wastewater treatment plant was actually a big shock to most due to the lack of odor. Don’t get me wrong, I would not like my house smelling like this, but there are definitely a lot of places out there that can be worse. This reduction of odor came from a cover over the aerobic digester, which is one of the recent additions to the plant. The treatment process is both simple and complex in their own ways. Before any raw water reaches the holding pools it must pass though grinders, sorters, and eventually the first settlement tank. Between the three stations, the water is skimmed, chlorinated (using aeration with chlorine), and broken down by microbes. Once the water reached the minimum purification percentage (85%), the water is piped into the Hudson River, where it is diluted.

In the later part of that morning, we took a ride to New Windsor, where the class learned about the sustainability and benefits of an Aquaponic system at Continental Organics,  a very interesting place to visit because it is unique even for the more modern ways of growing plants indoors. The facility was ingenious in every aspect since it almost produced no waste. The process is rather long for a full explanation, but it can be found on their website (

Continental Organics farmed fish and grew a variety of plants, which are all sold for consumption. This is unique compared to hydroponic systems because of the use of fish “waste.” It’s hard to call it waste when the water the fish live in is used to provide nutrients to the plants and promote faster, healthier growth. In addition, the carbon dioxide emissions from the thousands of fish are even used for the plants, which reduce the carbon footprint by a significant margin.

Both tours were very educational and left us with a lot of knowledge to bring back home with us that night (smells were also brought home as well). We finished up the day with a few hours of lectures and disbanded from the Beacon Institute. Despite the overcast skies, the weather ended up holding, but upon looking at the forecast for the Clearwater trip tomorrow, it appeared our luck was rapidly thinning out.