Writing Contest Winners 2019-2020

Honorable Mention, Grades 6-8

Dean Ciampa
Grade 7, Wilmington Middle School, Wilmington
Mrs. Theresa Fisher, Teacher

As a drop of water, I've been through the water cycle millions of times. I've watched many generations of humans come and go. I've seen almost every toilet bowl in every home, which has brought me through almost every sewer system. In the end, I always find myself back at Deer Island, where I am treated and then sent back into the atmosphere. Each journey through the water cycle is a whole new adventure for me, but my most recent rotation through the water cycle was probably my most disastrous one yet, and it made me realize the importance of making sure that you know what is okay to flush down the toilet, and what is not.

Obviously, my cycle always begins once I condense from a cloud and come down to the ground as precipitation. But the escapade didn't really begin until I found myself in the toilet bowl of the Johnson family's bathroom. That's where I first got to meet the droplets that would accompany me on my upcoming adventure, Slippy and Rainy. Everything was going smoothly, until Mr. Johnson came to the bathroom to get ready for work. Mr. Johnson was a bulky man, with a permanent grumpy expression on his face. Just by looking at him, you would be able to tell that nothing good could have ever come from him. He didn't have a clue what you should and shouldn't flush down the toilet, and it showed.

First, after he finished flossing, he threw his dental floss in the toilet. Plop. Then, he threw the wipes he was using to clean the sink down the toilet. Swoosh. Then, he threw his cotton swabs down into the toilet. Blip. And then, he dumped the dirty cat litter straight into the middle of the toilet bowl, with a loud 'Splash!' Slippy, Rainy and I just stared at the items Mr. Johnson had thrown into the toilet in horror. "Doesn't he know that you shouldn't throw any of those items into the toilet?" exclaimed Slippy.

"Doesn't he know what can happen if he flushes all of these things down the toilet?" exclaimed Rainy.

"Flushing items such as cotton swabs, cat litter, dental floss, diapers, or medications can cause backups to not only your home, but potentially your entire neighborhood and local businesses and public buildings as well, and can cause up to billions of dollars in utility, maintenance and repair costs," I said, matter-of-factly, pretending Mr. Johnson could hear me. Though I knew that wouldn't change anything. Mr. Johnson was going to flush us along with all these items down the toilet, and cause a lot of trouble for himself, us, and a lot of other people, too.

Our hearts were racing as we prepared to face our impending doom. Slippy, Rainy and I watched, petrified, as Mr. Johnson reached over to flush us down the toilet. The last thing I saw before I was flushed away was the scowling, grumpy face of Mr. Johnson. And with a push of the toilet handle, we were flushed away with a quick ‘Swoosh!’ As we raced through the pipes, I could feel myself slowing to a stop. Terrified, I watched as the cotton swabs and the wipes got caught on the side of the pipe, barricading all the other water droplets behind us, including Slippy and Rainy. Swabs, wipes, and dental floss do not dissolve as well as normal toilet paper does in water, causing them to get stuck in nicks in sewer pipes and stop water from getting through the pipes, which is why you should only flush human waste and toilet paper down the toilet.

Eventually, the pipes got so jammed from all the items that Mr. Johnson had flushed down the toilet that I was stuck in a standstill. Based on what I have heard from some of my fellow droplets, this backup stretched through the Johnson family's entire neighborhood. We waited hours for some plumber to arrive and clean up the pipes so we could continue on our way. I could only hope that Slippy and Rainy were holding up as well as I was.

Though it felt like we had been stopped for an entire spin through the water cycle, we finally got back on our way. As I looked behind me I smiled as I saw Slippy and Rainy dashing towards me. "Boy, am I glad to see you two again!" I beamed.

"That was one wild ride, wasn't it?" Slippy said.

"I'm just glad we finally got out of that small, tight pipe. I'm claustrophobic!" Rainy admitted with a sigh.

When we all, at long last, arrived at Deer Island to be cleaned up, I overheard some scientists discussing the incident at the Johnson's neighborhood. Their talking raised my awareness of the importance of what you flush down the toilet.

You should never flush household items like dental floss, cat litter, diapers, wipes, cotton swabs, or medications down the toilet. Even some products labeled as "flushable" shouldn't be flushed down the toilet. Remember, there's a thing called a trash can for your trash, too. As I have already discussed, flushing some of these items can cause sewage backups that can span entire neighborhoods and cause extensive damage to sewer systems. If you don't want to deal with the same issues as the Johnson's, stick to flushing only human waste and toilet paper down your toilet.
Hopefully you will take my story and use it as a lesson and think before you flush. Now, it's time for me to start my trip all over again. I'm sure we'll cross paths again though sometime in the future, as I've still got millions of cycles ahead of me!