Karen Roothaan: Candidate Profile

Metro. Water Reclamation District (Green)

  • Karen Roothaan, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District

    Karen Roothaan, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District

Updated 9/21/2012 4:34 PM




Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Chicago

Website: http://greens4mwrd.org/

Office sought: Metro. Water Reclamation District

Age: 59

Family: One daughter

Occupation: Teacher

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, University of Chicago 1974 Master of Science in mathematics, Brown University 1978

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Civic involvement: Cofounder of Trees R Beautiful, an urban forestry project

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: no

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Toxics in our wastewater, including heavy metals and prescription drugs

Key Issue 2

Increased flooding risk due to changing weather patterns.

Key Issue 3

Eventual reversal of the Chicago River

Questions & Answers

What special knowledge or experience do you have that particularly qualifies you for this office?

I have a strong commitment to sound environmental choices and a good background in science. I have some practical experience managing my own rainwater and using it in our forestry project that will help me understand the issues in larger scale rain management projects. I have also been fortunate in the last few months to have a former MWRD engineer tutor me in operations and am looking forward to learning more.

What should the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District do to prevent disasters like the widespread flooding that affected the North and Northwest suburbs in July 2011?

The MWRD needs to move forward with large scale reservoirs to handle rainwater. I would also like to see more initiatives both at the household and neighborhood levels to keep excess water out of our sewers: such as rain barrels, rain gardens, and bioswales.


The district changed its severance policies last year, prompting 78 employees, including the executive director and a commissioner, to quit and resulting in a payout of $2.4 million. Do you support how that change was handled? Why or why not?

I do not know enough about this to comment.

What should the district's policies be with regard to severance, sick time and pensions? Please explain in detail.

Without knowing the details of existing policies I will explain my guiding principle: employees should be fairly compensated. If budget cuts need to be made these cuts need to be equitable and not create undue hardship for those at the lower ends of the pay scale.

The Water Reclamation District voted in June to disinfect sewage before dumping it into waterways. Are there more steps the board should take to protect the environment? Please be specific.

We need aggressive public education programs to get people to stop dumping toxic household chemicals and prescription drugs in our wastewater. We all need to understand that there is no such thing as "away". When we flush our toilets or pour something down the drain whatever we send down ends up somewhere. Another step is one I have personally done, which is to save rainwater and use it for irrigation. Since I have had to learn the hard way, by trial and error, I would like to see more information available for property owners as well as getting more retailers (hardware stores and nurseries) to carry the necessary equipment.