President Kari Steele of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Annual Update (Cook County, IL) – As the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) looks to a brighter new year, we have continued to exceed expectations during the second year of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Not only did we deliver essential services – transforming wastewater into clean water, managing stormwater, improving our waterways and drinking water source, and recovering resources – but during the pandemic, we played an integral role in studying the coronavirus. For a second year, we sent samples from our treatment collection to four different studies to gain a better understanding of the virus detection in wastewater. These sewage surveillance studies measure traces or fragments of the RNA genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to track the spread of COVID-19.
This information is used by public health departments to make decisions for controlling the spread of the virus instead of depending on information from clinical cases, which is only available after the fact.
All seven MWRD water reclamation plants (WRPs) were selected to provide samples to local and national research institutions, universities and public health departments and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As always, our staff continued to work 24/7 to maintain reliable service levels and deliver peace of mind to the residents of Cook County. As another year concludes and we reflect on our achievements, I am grateful for everyone’s service, health and clean water.
A robust collaborative strategic planning process that occurred over nine months in 2021 culminated with the Board’s approval of a landmark document to guide the MWRD’s efforts to protect the region’s water environment and enhance the quality of life for area residents. The MWRD’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025 was approved on June 3, 2021, following a process that utilized public participation, a steering committee and engagement with local government agencies and consultants. The plan articulates the vision and strategic goals for the MWRD, identifies strategic initiatives to achieve those goals, and provides a framework for measuring progress.
All aspects of the strategic planning process are informed by an equity lens. The MWRD Steering Committee remained cognizant that the planning has a deep impact on all residents no matter where they live or work in the MWRD’s 882-square-mile service area. As a result, we focused on diversity, equity and inclusion to guide engagement with all communities across Cook County. It was an honor to work with our executive leadership, staff, commissioners, volunteers and the public to create a living, breathing document that is now helping to guide our work.
President Kari Steele of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Annual Update