RACE: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

About the Candidate

Name: Daniel “Pogo” Pogorzelski
DOB: May 15, 1979
Occupation: Civic Engagement for Illinois State Treasurer; Writer/Editor Forgotten Chicago
Website: www.gopogomwrd.com
Twitter: @DanPogoFC
Facebook: Dan Pogorzelski for MWRD
Instagram: @DanPogoFC

Candidate Statement

The perils of climate change and the overwhelming amount of microplastics that are being dumped into our waterways necessitate that the MWRD lead on this critical issue.

Few are aware that the average person eats and excretes the equivalent of one credit card’s worth of microplastics every week. We are poisoning our water, and ourselves. We simply cannot engineer our way out of this bad behavior which is why we must have a serious conversation about how we treat our wastewater, and the MWRD must engage in a massive campaign to raise awareness of how, together, we can begin to change our societal behaviors and lead our region, and its water, to a cleaner future.

To learn more about my campaign please visit my website at www.gopogomwrd.com and remember to vote “Pogo” on November 8.

Candidate Q&A

Why are you running?

I am running for this position to empower and educate local communities across the MWRD Service Area as we deal with the brutal legacy of environmental injustice and climate change.

We are approaching a crisis. Although the MWRD is nearing the completion of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, colloquially referred to as the “Deep Tunnel”, it will not be enough to carry away the amount of water necessary to prevent flooding during the type of heavy storm events that are becoming more frequent because of climate change. While building more of this gray infrastructure will be a part of the solution to this challenge, it cannot be overcome unless the MWRD greatly enhances its service area’s ability to better absorb rainwater where it falls. Not being able to handle removing all of that precipitation will cause flooding, and as we saw in Europe in 2021, it can have catastrophic results. That puts the future of the Great Lakes’ “Blue Economy” that many hope will revive the Rust Belt in jeopardy.

The MWRD’s service area is over 883 square miles, with over 5 million people living on it. Transforming enough of that land to safely suck up rainwater in the most severe weather events will not happen if it continues as a largely below the radar technocratic unit of government. It has to create a multifaceted approach of mobilizing people, organizations and local governments to inspire them to step up so that green infrastructure becomes more commonplace.

Education and community empowerment are the only ways we are going to see long-term improvements, as we cannot engineer our way out of people’s existing habits, specifically in relation to the microplastics crisis.

What does this office do well, and what needs fixing?

The MWRD is fortunate to have many of the top water engineers and scientists as employees, something other water sanitation/reclamation districts lack, which provides great opportunity for innovation.

Areas that I believe need fixing include:
1. Empowering and educating local communities across the MWRD Service Area to be better stewards of our environment, especially in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods, including the one-third of Cook County that speaks a language other than English at home.
2. Micro-plastic education and empowerment — with 20% of the world's fresh water right outside our door, we will never be able to live up to the promise of the blue economy if we don’t protect our water.

Many do not know this important body of government exists and as Commissioner, I will work relentlessly to change that. 

What is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?

One of my foremost concerns with our current water treatment revolves around micro-plastics, something that has largely flown under the radar. The growing concern over micro-plastics is one that actually propelled me into running for this position. Numerous studies have been completed worldwide concerning microplastics and yet, the MWRD has not taken any meaningful action to contain this ever growing problem. According to a recent study, vegetables that are used as thickeners could help us eliminate micro-plastics from wastewater, something I believe needs to be considered for its low cost and lack of need for specialized equipment.

What specific steps would you take to ensure your office is accessible and responsive to your constituents?

While serving as Community Outreach Assistant for a State Representative, I worked with the MWRD and resident groups to create events where we connected constituents with resources and insights in response to local flooding issues. Connecting constituents to both elected officials and resources is what I have done for the last decade and I look forward to being able to implement that as Commissioner.