Kimberly Neely DuBuclet, Democratic candidate for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner
She is currently a commissioner at the MWRD and a former state representative.
Political/civic background:State Representative 2011 - 2013
MWRD Commissioner 12/2018 - present
Museum of Contemporary Art Women’s Board
Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation Board
Former AIDS Foundation of Chicago Board of Directors
Former Personal PAC Board of Directors
The Links, Inc.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
University of Chicago Black MBA Association
University of Chicago Laboratory Schools Alumni Board
The GirlFriends, Inc.
Education:University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, BS Marketing
University of Chicago, MBA
Facebook: MWRD Commissioner KimNeelyDuBuclet
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. KimberlyNeelyDuBuclet 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?
Stormwater management is crucial to protecting our water ways as well as our homes and communities. This requires a multifaceted approach with both residents and local governments working together to address the challenges we face with climate change. MWRD must do more to prevent stormwater from entering our overburdened stormwater and sewer systems by promoting the expansion of green infrastructure across Cook County. MWRD should provide tax credits or rebates for the inclusion of green infrastructure, including permeable pavement, when permits for development or redevelopment are sought under its Watershed Management Ordinance (WMO) so more water can be captured and stored on site. MWRD can also lead the effort to promote green building codes throughout Cook County. I plan to continue to work with suburban counties and villages to adopt model policies that promote permeable surfacing, green building codes and other environmental best practices.
I would also push the state legislature provide additional funding for disadvantaged communities that do not have sufficient funding to repair and maintain their stormwater infrastructure and to provide for additional green infrastructure, especially in the south suburbs. For example, the state should fund the Clean Water Workforce Pipeline Program, sponsored by Sen. Ram Villam that became law this summer. The act establishes a vital workforce training program for residents of disadvantaged communities. By funding the act much needed to training, recruitment, support and placement in careers in green infrastructure maintenance will be provided.
What role should the MWRD play in addressing climate change?
MWRD should lead the fight to save the planet while making Cook County a quality place to live by serving as an innovative role model for emissions reduction. MWRD is projected to be leading the way in cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a projected 50% from 2005 levels after completing replacement of aging infrastructure at our water recovery plants. This will put the MWRD well ahead of United States Paris Agreement pledge to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025.
MWRD is also helping to reduce greenhouse gases in our air through its “Restore the Canopy” program where it distributes free Oak saplings to residents. These native saplings planted throughout the County will sequester carbon, soak up stormwater and increase air quality as they mature. For the future, I support MWRD becoming a net zero carbon emitter from its electrical use by 2035 for its offices by increased adoption of energy efficient technology and increased use of MWRD generated biogas, solar energy and hydroelectric power from our Lockport Powerhouse.
Also the MWRD needs to adopt resilient strategies that will prepare residents and the regions stormwater infrastructure to accommodate the more extreme weather events such as more frequent and higher intensity storms that are expected with climate change.
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?
I support the permanent protection of suitable MWRD lands that are contiguous to waterways for community-driven uses by transferring management to government agencies by long term leases in compliance with MWRD leasing policy and the state’s leasing statute. Leasing keeps the property in the District’s supervision and protection while allowing community driven uses of MWRD holdings to be developed.
What should the MWRD’s role be in reducing combined sewer overflows?
I would also support any efforts or strategies to expedite the completion of Phase II of the McCook Reservoir. Another 6.5 billion gallons of additional storage will be added to the existing 3.5 billion gallons at McCook. This will prevent 10 billion gallons of CSOs from entering the area waterways.
Securing federal funding for Phase II of McCook is essential. I support the current strategy of the funds going directly to MWRD instead of going through the Army Corp of Engineers to complete this project. The MWRD’s access to low interest loans can help complete this project and will go a long way at curbing sewage overflows, and serving as a vital long term investment for Cook County residents.
MWRD also needs to consider expanding its “deep tunnel” project to adequately transport stormwater to our reservoirs, as it has become clear our current system is overwhelmed during larger storms. Storms are becoming more frequent due to climate change.
Other steps can also be taken such as increasing efforts to disconnect downspouts from the sewer system, and advocating for greywater plumbing systems, among other rain capture systems, all of which should result in less water entering the sewer system. Preserving the County’s green spaces will also be vital, as the land’s natural ability to absorb water will reduce the volume of water in our sewers and curb sewage overflows
How do you see the role of wastewater treatment agencies changing over the next 10 years?
I see MWRD as doing more to fully integrate community inspired recreational, economic and environmental opportunities into MWRD water projects. 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.
Each winter, road salt winds up in storm runoff from rain, snowmelt and ice, and it is released into local environments by the splash and spray of vehicles. Road salt travels onto vegetation, into the soil and groundwater, through storm drains and into waterways that the MWRD aims to protect. Chlorides (a component of salt) can be toxic to wildlife and fish. Studies show that chlorides have increased substantially over the last 50 years.
MWRD has taken a lead to address the problem by forming a Chicago Area Waterways System (CAWS) Watershed Chlorides Group to help develop and implement Best Management Practices (BMP)to reduce the use of road salt in collaboration with area municipalities. MWRD has found the issue to be a complicated problem that requires extensive study and consultations. Because of this the MWRD has asked the Illinois Pollution Control board for more time to develop and implement the BMPs necessary to address the problem.
As Commissioner, I would support having a study session to review the current status of efforts and discuss how we can move more quickly to finalize and implement Best Management Practices on the use road salt in Cook County along with our municipal partners.
Do you support installing disinfection technology at Stickney, the world’s largest wastewater treatment plant? Please explain.
Stickney WRP is the largest of our seven Water Reclamation Plants. I would need to review of a report on the costs of benefits of adding disinfection to this Plant before making a final decision. I would support having MWRD conduct a study to evaluate the cost of adding disinfection and having a public study session at the Board to review the results.
How would you improve the phosphorus-removal efforts now underway at the MWRD? Do you think this important? Why or why not?
I support efforts to develop a plan to improve phosphorus-removal efforts. Excessive nutrients from stormwater causes water quality problems, including exessive algal growth in local lakes a streams. Also if excessive nutrients reach the Gulf of Mexico they help contribute to the creation of loss of oxygen in the Gulf that make life impossible in its waters. MWRD must do its part to address the problem.
Right now MWRD, in partnership with a contractor, operates the world’s largest phosphorus recovery facility at our Stickney Water Reclamation Plant in Cicero. In 2018 the recovery facility produced approximately 1,350 tons of a phosphorus-rich, slow release fertilizer. This phosphorus recovery allowed the Stickney Water Recovery Plant to reduce 66% of its total phosphorus for a total of 1.46 million pounds/year.
MWRD is working with a CAWS Nutrient Oversight Committee (NOC) to develop and implement a plan for further phosphorus reduction. This plan will be completed by December 31, 2023. The CAWS Nutrient Oversight Committee consists of one representative each from the District, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and environmental advocacy groups.
I do think phosphorus-removal efforts are important to continue in order to make our waters fishable, swimmable and be equally available to all. I also believe this phosphorus reduction process will result in a fair plan that is grounded in science that will help MWRD to take the necessary steps to improve our waterways and address the problems in the Gulf of Mexico.
What is the appropriate role of the MWRD in addressing the problem of Asian carp and other invasive species in Chicago area waterways?
MWRD must take an active role and encourage the Federal government to provide the Army Corps with the resources it needs to act more quickly to install necessary infrastructure to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. Asian carp would be disastrous to both the ecology and fishing industry in the Great Lakes region.
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.
One of the Historical figures from Illinois that I draw inspiration from is Michelle Obama. As the wife of the first African American President, Michelle Obama gave millions of women and girls of all backgrounds the hope that no matter what circumstance you are in, or what obstacles you face, if you work hard and strive for your goals, anything is possible. She is a smart, confident progressive trailblazer who leads with integrity and empathy. She has impacted the lives of many across the world and continues to work hard to improve the lives of others. She continually encourages women to become leaders and to follow their dreams. I got to know her when our children were in grade school together. Michelle Obama was always gracious, kind and inspiring, even before she was The First Lady. She was then and still is today an inspirational role model for me and millions of other women and girls across the globe.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
My favorite TV show would be The West Wing. This is one of my favorite shows because it increased my interest in politics and the political process. It also informed my decision to become more politically active in my community. The show was very well made and had a huge influence on my view of the local and federal legislative process