Michael G. Grace, Democratic candidate for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner

He is currently serving his third term as vice president trustee of the South Lyons Township Sanitary District.

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Michael G. Grace, Democratic candidate for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, 2020 primary election

Michael G. Grace, Democratic primary candidate for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner.

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Candidate profile

Michael G. Grace

Running for: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Political/civic background: Currently serving my third term as Vice President Trustee of the South Lyons Township Sanitary District.

Occupation: Business owner of fire and water mitigation company.

Education: Bachelor of Science in Economics from Marquette University.

Facebook: Michael G. Grace for MWRD

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The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues. Michael G. Grace submitted the following responses:

What new strategies would you develop to reduce the impact of stormwater on our area’s sewage, flood control and water systems?

My focus is and always has been improved infrastructure. With my political experience, I would work directly with the engineering team and apply their smoke and dye testing data to find out which areas in the district are experiencing infiltration and inflow issues. While some sewers just need to be lined, other areas with outdated and aging materials, need to be replaced with new computer driven sewer and flood control systems. We can no longer continue to put band aids on recurring problems. While initially, there will be additional costs, down the line, the district will save tax payer dollars with quicker problem diagnosis, faster emergency response and less superintendent call outs. Every minute counts in a flooding emergency.

What role should the MWRD play in addressing climate change?

With changing weather patterns, we have experienced increased storms and record rainfall. We can no longer rely on past data and apply it to the future. Our system should be equipped to plan for the worse and updated continuously. The district must be a leader in environmental responsibility. First and foremost, the district must do everything possible to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus from entering the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). We must encourage and enforce legislation to punish all that are guilty of releasing toxins into our waterways.

The MWRD is the second largest landowner in Cook County. What is the ideal disposition of property owned by the district that is not needed for direct corporate purposes?

As the second largest landowner in Cook County, the district must first assure our constituents that our infrastructure is working at peak performance. From there we must preserve our green space. Our waterways and lakefront make Cook County one of the most beautiful places in the country. Athletes, families and those simply out for a walk can be assured that, if elected, I will preserve these wonderful spaces.

What should the MWRD’s role be in reducing combined sewer overflows?

As stated above, if elected, my focus will be district infrastructure. Outdated and ineffective sewer and flood control system must be replaced. The district must take advantage of today’s modern technology and apply it to infrastructure. I have done this at Lyons Township and we have had tremendous success.

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

Technology is an ever changing industry. The district has been one of the country’s leaders in wastewater handling and treatment. In ten years, I believe the role of wastewater treatment agencies will be more important than ever. With continued research, applied technology and the foresight of the district, I believe we will see more treatment centers that are not only more efficient and effective but smaller in size.

The MWRD is part of a multi-agency group exploring ways to keep chlorides out of waterways. Is the MWRD doing enough to push this issue forward? Please explain.

We can never do enough to assure that our waterways are kept clean and safe. Although we take it for granted, clean water is our most valuable commodity. While chlorides exist in all forms of water, we must limit high levels as they can be dangerous to humans and damage district infrastructure. MWRD must do more to push this issues, protect our river banks and enforce penalties for industrial toxin dumping wastewater run offs.

Do you support installing disinfection technology at Stickney, the world’s largest wastewater treatment plant? Please explain.

I support installing disinfection technology at the Stickney plant. Recreational use of the waterways increases each year. I support taking advantage of new methods and the use of ultraviolet irradiation to disinfect the water at the plant.

How would you improve the phosphorus-removal efforts now underway at the MWRD? Do you think this important? Why or why not?

I would improve phosphorus-removal efforts by working directly with the Chicago Area Waterway System Nutrient Oversight Committee and their experts. Additionally, I would like to meet with other environmental groups such as the Friends of the Chicago River and the Sierra Club. With continued efforts, recent research suggests the possibility of reducing phosphorus levels tenfold by 2030.

What is the appropriate role of the MWRD in addressing the problem of Asian carp and other invasive species in Chicago area waterways?

Aquatic invasive species are not only dangerous to our waterways, but a costly burden to taxpayers. The district’s role must be to work directly with the Army Corps of Engineers to reinforce our current efforts and continue to develop new preventative methods. While the use of electrical barriers was initially effective in keeping the Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, adult carp have been found past the barriers. The must assist the Corp in its continued efforts and help develop new techniques to prevent invasive species.

What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.

Although I am biased, I most admire and draw inspiration from James Gately, my great grandfather. While many younger people are not familiar with the Gately name, James was one of the most influential Chicagoans to date. He began working for Carson Pirie Scott Co. at age 17. He immediately went on the road as a salesman and assisted in developing trade to the west. In 1917, at age 35, James opened Gately’s People Store. This 6 level department store was known as “the largest store on Michigan Avenue”. In 1946, James became the president of the Chicago Park District. He served as president until 1967 and increased the number of parks from 135 to 430. James increased park district acreage to 6800 acres. I take inspiration from him for his valiant civic duties and his love for our parks and waterways.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

My favorite show is “The Office”. Although I have never had the pleasure of working with Michael Scott, I think most of us can relate to the day to day antics of office life.

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