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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Pictured at the USMCA Excellence in Engineering Award banquet are (L-R): MWRD Acting Diversity Administrator Richard Martinez, MWRD Diversity Officer Fernand Fortier III, MWRD Senior Diversity Officer PJ Spencer, Dr. Catherine O’Connor MWRD Director of Engineering, (rear) MWRD Senior Civil Engineer Eddie Paulino, MWRD Associate Civil Engineer Efren Solis, MWRD Assistant Director of Engineering Glenn Ross, and MWRD Diversity Officer Chase Carthen.


A dynamic and innovative engineering leader at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) was recognized for excellence in ensuring equal opportunities in the mounting task of protecting the region’s water environment. Dr. Catherine O’Connor, director of the MWRD’s Engineering Department, was honored as the recipient of the U.S. Minority Contractors Association (USMCA) Excellence in Engineering Award at the 32nd Annual Millennium Buildings Awards held on Nov. 16 at Eaglewood Resort in Itasca. Dr. O’Connor’s outstanding contributions to the field of engineering, coupled with her commitment to diversity and inclusion, earned her this esteemed recognition.

This award is a testament to Dr. O’Connor’s exceptional work and her advocacy for diversity within the field of engineering. She has not only excelled professionally but has also actively mentored and supported underrepresented individuals in pursuing careers in engineering.

“Dr. O’Connor’s career exemplifies the values of excellence, diversity, and inclusion that are central to our organization,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. “Her work exemplifies her commitment to excellence and diversity in engineering which makes her a truly deserving recipient of this prestigious award. Dr. O’Connor is an inspiration to aspiring engineers and serves as a role model for the next generation of professionals in the industry.”

Dr. O’Connor and the Engineering Department work to equip the MWRD’s seven water reclamation plants with the latest technology, design and resources to transform a capacity of more than 2 billion gallons of wastewater into clean water in a day. In addition, the MWRD owns and operates 560 miles of intercepting sewers, 110 miles of deep tunnel, three combined sewer reservoirs, 23 pumping stations, 34 stormwater detention reservoirs, controls 76 miles of navigable waterways and partnered on hundreds of stormwater management projects throughout Cook County to promote climate resilience.

“I am deeply honored to receive the U.S. Minority Contractors Association Excellence in Engineering Award, a recognition that underscores the collective commitment to safeguarding our region’s water environment,” said Dr. O’Connor. “This accolade is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the MWRD’s Engineering Department in addressing the mounting task of protecting our precious water resources. Together, we continue to engineer sustainable solutions that transcend boundaries, fostering a resilient and thriving ecosystem for generations to come.”

The USMCA is a national organization dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion within the construction and engineering industries. USMCA advocates for the equal representation of minorities in the workforce, provides educational resources, and honors excellence in the field through various awards and initiatives. For more information about the USMCA and the 32nd Annual Millennium Buildings Awards, visit

Press Release
Awards and Announcements

Established in 1889, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is an award-winning, special purpose government agency responsible for wastewater treatment and stormwater management in Cook County, Illinois.


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