Marty Durkan

Political party: Democrat

Office running for: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, 2-year term

Campaign website:

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board questionnaire responses

Q)  Do you support installing disinfection technology at Stickney, the world’s largest wastewater treatment plant?

A)  I believe that Stickney should move forward with disinfection. As a commissioner, I will evaluate regional priorities to ensure that the best decisions are made on funds spent.

Q) How would you improve the current phosphorus removal plans underway at the MWRD? Do you think this important? If so, why?

A) Nutrient removal is quickly emerging as a primary environmental issue in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin. Global phosphorus consumption is rapidly increasing and recapturing these resources is an environmentally-friendly function to alleviate the effects of phosphorus strip-mining that is occurring across the globe.

The MWRD should take a leading role amongst all state and national stakeholders and ensure that phosphorus removal is taking place at each stage of the reclamation process to maximize the amount that can be removed.

Q) Do you support any alternatives to maximize the capacity of the Tunnel and  Reservoir Plan? Which ones do you support?

A) TARP is a critical component to flood control and water quality measures in the region, but we cannot stop there. Recent regional and national flood disasters need to be addressed and the District should take an aggressive role and increase green infrastructure. A strong commitment to green infrastructure on its own properties and advocacy throughout the region will go a long way toward keeping water out of the system and out of basements.

Q) What do you think the MWRD’s role should be in reducing chloride usage?

A) The MWRD should continue to be a leader in regional efforts to reduce chloride runoff. The District must collaborate with transportation agencies, municipalities in its service area, and private industry partners to establish best management practices that will optimize the use of salt on roadways, providing safe roads and minimizing chloride runoff.

Q) What should the MWRD’s role be in reducing combined sewer overflows?  What is the MWRD’s role in informing the public about CSO’s? How would rate the MWRD’s performance in informing the public about CSO’s, and why?

A) Through the TARP implementation, the MWRD has taken the lead role in reducing CSO’s in Chicago area waterways. I will ensure that the District expedites the completion of TARP and implements other measures to keep polluted water out of our waterways.

The District should provide notification of overflow events to local municipal partners and all residents within its service area. The District has been proactive its approach but I believe we can move faster.

Q) How do you the see role of wastewater treatment agencies changing over the next 10 years?

A) Wastewater utilities are at a pivotal and transitional moment in time where plants are turning into resource recovery facilities rather than waste disposal facilities, and the MWRD is well positioned to take the lead in this transition.

Q) Should the MWRD set a goal of making Chicago area waterways clean enough for swimming?

A) Achieving the cleanest water possible must be at the forefront of the District’s goals, and doing so is essential to accomplishing many of its goals. I hope that one day, my children will be able to swim safely in the Chicago River, and there are many important goals that we can and should aspire to accomplish along that path.

Q) What should the MWRD’s role be in addressing Asian carp and other invasive species in Chicago area waterways?

A) As the agency that built the channels we know today as the Chicago-area Water System, the district should use its knowledge of the system to ensure that the threat posed by invasive species is addressed without compromising its critical flood protection functions. A thoughtful, balanced approach must be taken to address both of these functions.

Q) The MWRD is Cook County’s second largest landowner. Does the District have a responsibility to ensure companies to which it leases land are good environmental stewards?

A) At the very least, the MWRD must ensure that tenants are environmentally responsible. We should create policies and procedures to check lessees’ background and continually monitor landholders, maintaining a plan for immediate remediation and removal if contamination is found. Additionally, any land use should support the vision of local communities and the mission of the MWRD.

Q) How would you rate the current performance of the District?

A) The MWRD has been an example of functional government. While agencies of every size have struggled with, and often failed, their primary functions of infrastructure maintenance and employee legacy costs, the MWRD has taken fiscally responsible measures to stay ahead of the curve on both of these issues. In addition, the District has continued to undertake some of the largest civil engineering projects on earth, and maintained its ability to adapt its programming to ensure that environmental friendly practices are considered and implemented to complement its core functions.

Q) What should the District’s role be in coordinating efforts with other government agencies in the Chicago area watersheds to manage those watersheds?

A) In today’s world, government agencies must work together to get things done. No agency has the resources to face these issues alone, and combining resources will provide a stronger and more economically viable solution. I know this first hand as a Business Representative for IUOE Local 150 by working cooperatively with various local units of government. I believe that this experience makes me uniquely qualified to help coordinate these efforts.

Water is one of the most critical issues facing mankind today. The MWRD is uniquely positioned with its vast knowledge and history, and it should lead the charge on all local and regional water issues.