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Seen At 11: The Incredible Eco Machine

Imagine Turning Raw Sewage Into Crystal Clear Water? It's Happening!
The Eco Machine

through use of plants, New York City is currently turning raw sewage into crystal clear drinking water. It’s part of a larger project called “The Eco Machine.” (Photo: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Imagine, the water you use every day cleaned and purified by plants! No more chemicals, no more pollutants.

It’s an environmental breakthrough, called the Eco Machine, and it’s already being used right here in New York City.

CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson recently got a look at what appeared to be your usual nursery. But the plants were actually hard at work doing something incredible — turning raw sewage into crystal clear water.

“It looks like it comes out of your kitchen faucet. It’s that clean and ready to use,” said Robert Backus, CEO of the Omega Institute.

Environmentalists are trying to get rid of traditional water treatment plants that use chemicals to clean our water. Plants, they claim, do it the natural way.

“We take the process that happens in nature and we use it to purify waste water,” Backus said.

The plants are part of a process that also uses other items from nature like gravel, sand, bacteria and even fish, which all digest waste. The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, N.Y., a non-profit organization, cleans up to 40,000 gallons of water per day. They call it the Eco Machine.

“This is a scalable waste water plant so you can go smaller or larger,” Backus said.

And the Eco Machine does even more. It’s been found to filter other pollutants out of the water, like household cleaners, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, which current water treatment facilities cannot.

“By the time it moves through the Eco Machine we’ve been able to totally remove those pharmaceuticals,” Backus said.

Environmentalists like John Lipscomb, who is with the group Riverkeeper, are thrilled with the idea and said in addition to saving money and energy the system will help preserve our local waterways.

“Once we decide to make it better, we can do it. That’s the future,” Lipscomb said.

Environmentalists hope the Eco Machine will serve as a model for more organizations and municipalities across the country. The Omega Institute provides tours of the Eco Machine for everyone from local students to international heads of state.

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