Ask Jimmy and the Bug

Jimmy and the Bug
there is a picture of Bug and Jimmy, with his arms in the air.

Hey Jimmy! Jaron A. wants to know: What happens to stuff that goes down the toilet?

Where does all this stuff go?

there is a drawing of Jimmy flushing the toilet.
There is a picture of Bug a TV with a view of mountains and an ocean.

In the United States, we flush more than 5 billion gallons of water down the toilet every day. Wastewater from your toilets, sinks, bathtub, shower, dishwasher, and washing machine flows into a small pipe under your home. In areas with public sewers, this pipe connects to a system of larger underground pipes that carries the dirty water (sewage) to a treatment plant.

Gravity does most of the work, but sometimes pumps help move the water along. In the treatment plant, wastewater is cleaned in stages. Screens catch the big stuff. Solids separate from the liquid in settling tanks. Skimmers remove the stuff that floats. Scrapers remove the stuff that sinks.

There is a picture of Jimmy doing the dishes.

Helpful microorganisms (bacteria and other tiny living creatures) “feast” on the waste in the water and digest it. Added chemicals kill harmful microorganisms, then the cleaned water is released into a nearby stream, river, or lake.

The solid stuff removed from wastewater is baked into “sludge cakes” and buried or burned.


there is a drawing of Jimmy flushing the toilet.


  1. What is a sludge cake?
    [anno: A sludge cake is the solid material that is left over and baked after the water has been treated.]
  2. What are some other mixtures that people separate at home? How do they separate these mixtures? Name at least two mixtures that people separate at home. Describe how they separate each of these mixtures.
    [anno: Answers will vary but could include that people separate recyclable materials from the trash by putting cans, paper, and plastic in special containers. Students might also mention that people separate the mail into catalogs, letters, and bills.]