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. Name four tools that are used to separate the different parts of wastewater.
    [anno: Four tools that are used to separate the different parts of wastewater are screens, settling tanks, skimmers, and scrapers.]
  2. What happens to wastewater that has been treated and cleaned?
    [anno: Wastewater that has been treated and cleaned is released into nearby streams, lakes, or rivers.]
  3. What would happen if wastewater were not separated and treated? Write a paragraph describing the effects of not separating and treating wastewater.
    [anno: Answers will vary but could include that if wastewater is not separated and treated, the amount of clean water on the planet is reduced each day. The untreated water could end up polluting lakes, rivers, and streams. If the water were not released but just stored, there would not be enough storage room after a while for the wastewater.]