Karen Roothaan: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Candidate, 6-Year Term

WTTW’s 2016 Voters’ Guide to the General Election is an online resource designed to inform voters about the candidates running for office in the Nov. 8 election.

Candidates were given two minutes to tell voters where they stand on the issues, why they feel they are best qualified and what they intend to do if elected or re-elected. The messages were recorded at the WTTW studios at no cost to the candidates. The Voters’ Guide is an online version of Candidate Free Time, pioneered by WTTW in the 1992 race for U.S. Senate. This year’s Candidate Free Time is underwritten in part by the League of Women Voters of Cook County and the City Club of Chicago.

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About this office: 

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) is governed by a nine-member board elected at-large with three commissioners elected every two years. On Nov. 8, some candidates will run for six-year terms, while others will run for a term lasting two years.

MWRD treats water collected by sanitary and stormwater sewers in most of Cook County. It also serves as the Stormwater Management Utility for Cook County. Its mission is to protect the health and safety of citizens and area waterways.

Candidate Free Time is underwritten in part by the League of Women Voters of Cook County and the City Club of ChicagoCandidate Free Time is underwritten in part by the League of Women Voters of Cook County and the City Club of Chicago

About this candidate:

Name: Karen Roothaan
Party: Green
Born: May 25, 1953
Residence: Chicago
Family: Daughter Nishi, partner Laurie Livermore
Occupation: Teacher
Political experience: None

Candidate Q&A

What is your vision for this office?

To serve the public interest and protect the environment.

What is the most pressing issue facing Cook County, and how can you help address it?

I believe the most pressing issue is the contaminants in treated wastewater and sewage sludge. I would address this issue through regular testing for hormones and drugs, not just heavy metals, as well as an aggressive educational campaign to reduce the contaminants that enter our drains and sewers through preventable actions.

Although this is the issue that concerns me the most, I recognize two other issues as very important to voters: flood prevention and equity in contracts awarded by the MWRD.

To address the issue of flooding we need to start by acknowledging the increase in severity of flooding. What was once considered a 100-year storm (one that would be expected to occur every 100 years or so) should now be expected more frequently. Capital-intensive projects such as Deep Tunnel are important, but to truly address the problem we also need to focus on smaller-scale more diffuse efforts that prevent water from entering the storm sewers.

To improve equity in contracts I support unbundling contracts where practical so that small businesses are able to bid on projects within their capacity.

Candidate Statement

Hello my name is Karen Roothaan. I am a native-born Chicagoan, a retired college teacher, and a proud member of the Green Party, dedicated to sustainability, environmental responsibility, and social justice.

I am running for the office of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, an agency responsible for treating the wastewater of over 7 million residents. One of the plants, located in Stickney, is the largest wastewater treatment plant in the world, treating 700 million gallons a day of wastewater, more during the heavy rains that are expected to increase in the future as our climate changes.

One byproduct of the water treatment process is biosolids, treated sewage sludge which is combined with wood chips and composted. This material has been used in parks and golf courses, and is now being offered to schools and community gardens as a soil amendment. I am opposed to this use of biosolids, because I do not believe they have been proven safe for use where children are exposed or for growing food for human consumption.

A vote for Green Party candidates, including myself, George Milkowski, Michael Smith, and Christopher Anthony, sends a message to the District that the public wants to keep our children safe by protecting them from materials containing heavy metals, drugs, and hormones. Our children are vulnerable and already at risk from multiple exposures to toxins in the environment, and we should not add to this load when we have other choices.

Please punch numbers 54, 55, 56, and 59 this November. Vote Green! Thank you. Again, my name is Karen Roothaan, and I am asking for your vote.

See more Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates

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