Click here to view the video recording of the October 12 Sustainability Summit.


Sustainability Summit Save the Date



Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Tuesday, October 12 • 10 a.m. – Noon



  • Moderated by MWRD Board President Kari K. Steele.


Learn the benefits of using sustainable resources like MWRD EQ Compost and EQ Biosolids, green infrastructures, alternative landscaping methods to remove unwanted vegetation, and how you can add sustainable resources into your landscaping projects. Our experts will share their tips, best practices, and success stories. You’ll even learn how we process our EQ Compost for beneficial reuse.

Note: If you applied for our Sustainable Landscaping or Biosolids Beneficial Reuse Awards, you will be contacted if you are a winner.  Good luck to all applicants.




Welcome Remarks and Introductions, MWRD Board President Kari K. Steele (Moderator)

President Kari Steele Portrait

MWRD Board President Kari K. Steele was elected November 6, 2012, to her first term as a Commissioner at the MWRD and re-elected in 2018 for a second term. In January 2019 she was elected President of the Board of Commissioners. President Steele currently serves as the Chairman for the Public Information and Education Committees and the State Legislation and Rules Committee, and she is Chairman of the MWRD Employees Credit Union Board of Directors. She also is the Vice Chairman of the Engineering and Monitoring & Research Committees.


Overview of biosolids and compost use as sustainable practice and current significant partnerships, Dr. Theresa Johnston, MWRD Senior Environmental Soil Scientist

Theresa Johnston Head Shot

Dr. Theresa Johnston is a Senior Environmental Soil Scientist at the MWRD. She received her Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Johnston earned a B.S. and an M.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with focuses on resource ecology, soil science and urban ecology at the University of Illinois. She spent time at McGill University and the U.S. EPA Atlantic Ecology Division for post-doctoral research before teaching at Loyola University Chicago for three years. Dr. Johnston now works in biosolids research and outreach. Her research focus at the MWRD is application of biosolids and restoration of native soils using biosolids.


Case studies of other cities and perspectives on emerging issues related to use of compost and biosolids, Sally Brown, Professor, University of Washington

Sally Brown Head Shot

Sally Brown is a Research Professor at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington.  She has worked on risks and benefits associated with the use of urban residuals for her entire academic career.  This work has focused primarily on municipal biosolids but also includes composts and digestates generated from the organic fraction of municipal solid waste.  Dr. Brown is a Fellow in the Soil Science Society of America.  She is a former two term member of the National Academy of Science Standing Committee on Soil Science and was also a member of the NAS committee on Bioavailability of Contaminants in Soils and Sediments.  She was past chair and continues to be an active member of the USDA CREES committee on biosolids- now referred to as the W 4170 research group.  She writes a regular column for Biocycle magazine.  She puts together a library of current research related to municipal biosolids and other organics that is distributed internationally.  Dr. Brown has an extensive list of peer reviewed publications and has co-edited two books on urban agriculture. 


Overview of CPD’s sustainability initiatives/activities, Matt Freer, Assistant Director of Landscape at Chicago Park District

Matt Freer Head Shot

Matt Freer has worked at the intersection of people and nature for over 20 years. Matt has spent most of his career working in urban environments. Currently overseeing the Chicago Park District’s Environmental Conservation and Engagement team, his recent work has focused on access to nature for Chicagoans. Matt is thrilled to share the myriad of benefits of nature with a greater audience. Matt and his team are planning and expanding nature areas in Chicago that benefit all Chicagoans as a resources to address individual and community health, increasing urban heat, flooding, air pollution and rising lake levels.


Overview of IFSC’s collaborative activities and how individuals and other organizations can contribute to these efforts, Stephanie Katsaros, IL Food Scrap Coalition

Stephanie Katsaros Head Shot

Stephanie Katsaros is the Founder and President of Bright Beat, a Chicago-based consultancy founded in 2010 to activate environmental stewardship and social responsibility across sectors and up the value chain. She has built a legacy of award-winning programs with cities, stadiums and festivals, raising the bar for responsible operations and public engagement. Bright Beat supports city and county solid waste reduction and diversion goals by developing awareness campaigns and helping businesses and organizations initiate food rescue, composting and recycling programs and partnerships. Stephanie dedicates much of her time to collaborating with her partners and peers to drive positive change as a Board Member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition and via the Chicago Sustainability Task Force, Wasted Food Action Alliance, Plant Chicago Circular Economy Advisory Committee and iHeart Media Local Advisory Board.


Centering Communities in Land Use Planning, Ma’raj Sheikh, Systems & Strategy Manager, Chicago Food Policy Action Council

Ma'raj Sheikh Head Shot

Ma’raj is a daughter of immigrants, descendent of liberation leaders, and a Castanea Fellow. Land, food, and justice are in her blood. Ma’raj has worked across many areas of food system development including soil bioremediation, bioenergy, stakeholder relations, consulting in the edible insect industry, and advancing racial equity in land, food, and water access. As a National Science Foundation Fellow, Ma’raj moved to Iowa from Southern California to learn about industrial agriculture from the belly of the beast - studying Sustainable Agriculture and Community and Regional Planning at Iowa State University. Prior to starting at CFPAC in January of 2020, Ma’raj served as Director of Equity and Community Engagement at Community GroundWorks (now Rooted), where her work focused on improving stable land tenure for Hmong refugee farmers and leading Gardens Network, a partnership with the City of Madison and UW-Extension, that provides support services to a member base of 65+ community gardens across Dane County, WI.


Grants and MWRD Partnership Programs, Andre Haynes, MWRD Senior Civil Engineer

Andre Haynes Head Shot

Andre Haynes is a Senior Civil Engineer in MWRD’s Engineering Department and has worked within the Stormwater Management Section for seven years. Prior to joining MWRD, Andre has worked in both the public and private sector for thirteen years.  As a Civil Engineer, Andre focuses on design, maintenance and construction of drainage and sewer infrastructure to establish well drained and useable land for the citizens’ intended purposes and to protect the natural and physically built environment. Andre enjoys how MWRD serves the public in reducing flood potential of structures and land to provide them with more safe and habitable residences. Andre’s involvement in projects span the breadth of Cook County, and span the categories of conceptual, shovel ready, green infrastructure and Flood Prone Property.  Andre is a licensed Civil Engineer and he enjoys the learning opportunities offered by MWRD to explore the fields of stormwater management, engineering products and technology, and the MWRD Seminar Series.


Role of Green Infrastructure, Steve Haucke, MWRD Senior Civil Engineer

Steve Haucke Head Shot

Steve Haucke is a Senior Civil Engineer at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), where he manages green and gray infrastructure stormwater projects. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and his MBA from Indiana University’s Kelly School of business.  He joined the MWRDGC in 2000 and has worked for the Monitoring & Research, Maintenance & Operations, and the Engineering Departments. Today, Steve is a Professional Engineer and a Certified Floodplain Manager working in the green infrastructure program in the Stormwater Management Section of the MWRD’s Engineering Department.  He has been working toward alleviating flooding in the Chicagoland area for the past 6 years. 


Flood Prone Property Buyouts, Lucas Roat, MWRD Associate Civil Engineer

Lucas Roat Head Shot

Lucas Roat is a newly appointed Associate Civil Engineer in the Stormwater Management Section of MWRD’s Engineering Department. Lucas earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering and M.Eng. in Environmental Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. After graduating, Lucas spent four years in the private sector, often working as a consultant to the MWRD or other public entities doing business with the MWRD. Lucas’ private sector experience involves hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, stormwater infrastructure design, floodplain management, and regulatory permitting. Prior to his current role, Lucas worked in the Permit Unit of MWRD’s Local Sewer Systems Section. Lucas values the role that the MWRD plays in providing equitable protection to the public from hazards associated with flooding and water quality.


How to apply for grants from Public Sector Resources, Annie Wright, MWRD Public Affairs Specialist, Engineering Department

Annie Wright Head Shot

Annie Wright has worked at MWRD since 2006, starting in the Public Affairs Section. She has been working on grant applications and management for the last 5 years. She is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Writing.


MWRD Sustainable Landscaping and Biosolids Beneficial Reuse Awards