Flushing the Toliet — Behind the Scenes


Flushing the Toliet — Behind the Scenes

Have you ever wondered what happens after flushing the toilet? Sure, the simple act of pushing the lever means you never have to deal with waste. But there's a whole lot of action that goes on behind the scenes when you flush the toilet - and your household's health depends on it.

Don't Take It for Granted

The capacity to deal with waste gives communities a significant advantage. Modern waste management systems increase the community's overall health and minimize the possibility of contaminated drinking supplies and waste-related illnesses. With such a sophisticated system at work in your home, it's important to understand what happens after the flush.

Flushing the Toilet 101

Once you're ready to flush the toilet and ahem, get rid of waste, household members need only shut the lid, push the toilet lever and carry on about their business. But a lot goes on after the flush. Here's an inside look at the journey of household waste:

  • After the flush, the waste is shuttled into a small pipe, typically about 4 inches in diameter, which is the household's waste removal pipe.
  • This pipe is connected to the city's main sewage system, which is usually underneath the street in front of the home. Eventually, a series of pipes carries household waste to the city's main treatment plant.
  • Every day, households flush and run water down drains that equates to thousands of gallons of water flushed per year.
  • This waste accumulates in the treatment plant, where it is filtered and then treated.
  • The waste first passes through large metal screens that catch debris like twigs.
  • Then, the waste slowly moves through the clarification tanks. Gravity lets large chunks of waste settle at the bottom. This waste is called sludge. The scum, which is the lighter waste, rises to the top.
  • Mechanical systems scrape the top layer of scum and move it to a tank where microorganisms break down the waste into a smaller amount of scum. At this point, the remaining scum will become either fertilizer or go to a landfill.
  • The remaining wastewater is treated a second time. Oxygen is added to the water, which allows bacteria to grow and essentially "feed" on the organic matter.
  • In a third tank, the remaining waste layer is removed.
  • The final step involves the addition of chemicals to further remove waste and remaining scum, also called floc. The addition of chlorine removes any remaining bacteria. Then, the water is filtered multiple times.
  • At this point, the water is deemed drinkable, or at least safe enough to be discharged into a local source of water.

The next time you're flushing the toilet, consider the advantage the modern waste treatment system offers. Behind the scenes, there's a lot of work going on to make waste treatment something that you probably don't even think about. For answers to your questions, contact the Pink Plumber today.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons