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updated: 10/10/2012 6:56 AM

Nasrin Khalili: Candidate Profile

Metro. Water Reclamation District (Green)

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  • Nasrin Khalili, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District

    Nasrin Khalili, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District




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


Office sought: Metro. Water Reclamation District

Age: 57

Family: Married, two sons

Occupation: Faculty at Illinois Institute of Technology

Education: Ph.D in Environmental Engineering, 1992, Illinois Institute of Technology

Civic involvement: none

Elected offices held: None

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

1- Design and implementation of a platform for MWRD operational transitions to support local and regional sustainable development initiatives and programs. The Sustainable MWRD would invest in green innovations, supports green entrepreneurial economic developments, green infrastructure while promotes welfare, and human capital developments and protection of the natural assets. Via a multi stakeholder visioning approach MWRD would adopt internal and external performance indicators specific to its operations in order to assess and if needed modify its leadership approach to meeting multi-stakeholder visions for a sustainable operation and in support of economic development. Such indicators will be specific to the economic, environmental, social, and cultural value systems and socio-economic characteristics of the communities/industry MWRD is associated with and committed to. Utilizing such a platform, the first project to tackle would be the sewage over flow problems!! Not by constructing larger underground tunnels. On the contrary through (I) design of programs that are specific to reducing water use and/or generation of wastewater, and (II) aggressively investing in and promoting entrepreneurial invention/innovation projects targeting Green Infrastructure Developments. The sewage overflow is the result of current consumption patterns, climate change (high intensity rainfalls, unpredicted flood,), and aging a gray infrastructure that only relies on the storage!!!. As such, while completing the deep tunnel project, MWRD should invest in programs/projects that could green the infrastructure gradually, and in phases, so it can be economically feasible and financed.

Key Issue 2

2- Minimizing MWRD environmental foot prints (specifically carbon and water) while investing in the Green Infrastructure. The goals is to work with the Board members, MWRD environmental management leadership, and external stakeholders and develop a proposal for characterization and management of the MWRD carbon and water foot prints. Supported and accommodated by the MWRD leadership, we would be able to both characterize the foot prints, and formulate a set of practical solutions to manage those. The best option would be identified according to the estimated economic, environmental, and social impacts of the projects. Examples include development of the energy management and water conservation strategies that include a wide range of ?educational programs? targeting local communities and industrial sectors as well as Districts? internal and external stakeholders, or investing in innovative green technologies.

Key Issue 3

3- Design and Implementation of ?Demand Management Program ?. The third goal would focus on the design of global ?Awareness?, and ?Education? initiatives to promote and teach sustainable use and reuse of water, and energy starting with MWRD employees. This initiative utilizes a system approach model that provides opportunity for District to work closely with external resources such as schools and universities, training centers, NGOs, research centers, government agencies and media to promote sustainable water management in the region. These programs will be designed according to the socio-economic nature of the communities, their assets, potentials, and economic development needs.

Questions & Answers

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

I have Bachelor of Science in Organic Chemistry, Masters in Environmental/Sanitary Engineering, and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering. I do breath, think, teach, and live conservation and waste management in their broadest sense. I have two patents for converting sludge to activated carbon (sorbents) with a wide range of industrial applications; a catalyst that is produced from sludge, to reduce NOx emissions, designed biocatalysts for sustainable removal of phenol in wastewater, and a gold plated carbon based catalyst for removal of mercury from flue gases. In collaboration with my students I have an award winning water purification system called KlarAqua to treat water in developing nations as well as disaster areas. Since 2009 I have been involved with the design of sustainable entrepreneurial economic development (SEED) strategies to promote regional economic developments specifically in small towns. As a member of the leadership team in a funded project by the Higher Education for Development (HED) (2012-2015) I am now working on design of the curriculums and strategies to promote cleaner production in Latin America. I have international experience working with Monterrey Tech in Mexico (2004-2007), and school of Mining and Metallurgy in Poland (1995-2007) and Argonne National Lab from 1997-2007. I am currently working on a project with Zhaw School of management and law in Switzerland. I am confident and comfortable with addressing technical and operational problems as an engineer. As a manager and strategic planner I understand the importance of including local and regional culture, values, developmental goals, assets, and resources as well as the limitations in all stages of decision making. I have the education, practical knowledge, experience, expertise and global perspectives needed to complement the background and the expertise of the respected members of the MWRD Board of commissionaires, as such make the Board more relevant and effective. While working closely with the Board, I intend to promote projects and developmental initiatives at MWRD that are centered on the core trusts of sustainable economic developments. I strongly believe that MWRD has the potentials, human and capital assets and resources needed to initiate sustainable transformation of the local and regional operations. While planning sustainable operation strategies that are specific to the WMRD, I would assist the board with making proper analysis of the issues MWRD is dealing with today and design of solutions that are feasible, proactive and practical given the current state of the economy. During 20 years of teaching and conducting research in collaboration with the industry and municipalities, I have worked on and developed a wide range of practical solutions to a range of problems associated with managing environmental and water pollution. In addition to my engineering expertise, I am comfortable with the managerial decision making tools and techniques. Examples include decision making model I have developed for design and selection of the best environmental management strategies according to industry criteria and stakeholder values. My work record, publications, patents, book on practical sustainability and newly designed multi-criteria decision making methods for assessing and ranking environmental projects are examples of my unique and interdisciplinary expertise that MWRD needs and should demands from its Board of commissionaires.

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?

I am a firm believer of the need for a holistic approach to planning and management of flood risks, such as one we experienced in 2011. With climate risks and changes observed and predicted for the future pattern of precipitations it is becoming even more critical to take an integrated, sustainable, and informed decision on how to manage flood risk in this region. The first step toward designing preventive measures is to plan for overcoming cultural differences, and potential communication issues due to differences in flood management objectives of different stakeholders. Those strategies must (a) understand and address obstacles associated with institutional, cultural, and structural differences that exist among involved sectors/institutions, (b) be able to create a clear and transparent environment for communication and discussions among parties, and (c) make sure to provide education and awareness needed to understand and correctly assess economic, environmental, and social dimensions of any policy or technical flood management solutions while commanding resilience to flood not resistance. Strategic planning for flood risk management must be built around a holistic, sustainable, and integrated approach that could respond to the different attitude to and tolerance of flooding and the way floodwater can be managed. Those should also concentrate on initiatives which are aimed at raising both administration and public awareness of the ecological, social and economic significance of protecting natural resources such as water sources and watersheds while planning for preventive flood risk initiatives. The most important obstacle to overcome when designing strategies is understanding and addressing differences in the culture, structure, objectives , communication styles and value systems of all different institutions ( stakeholders) involved, as such aiming at providing ?knowledge, education, and awareness of technical, economic, and social dimensions of alternative options. While one should consider socioeconomic dimensions of the risk, sustainable flood management options need to be evaluated carefully according to their practicality, technical feasibility, and associated economic, environmental and social impacts. Examples could include increasing water retention capacity trough green infrastructure), reconnection of former floodplains to rivers, construction of side channels, etc whilst increasing natural values and improving water flow in flood prone areas, adaptation of potential obstacles (bridges, dams and roads), or redesign of land use in floodplains. Also important are integration/consideration of the regional perspectives, conservation objectives and planning trajectories in development of sustainable flood risk management.

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 agree with the policy and District approach. It did damage Districts brand, image and created legal problems as well. Severance pay is often granted to employees upon termination of the employment. It is usually based on the length of employment, and since there is no requirement in the Fair Labor Standards for severance pay it is often decided upon agreement between an employer and an employee. The way severance pay, however, is managed speaks to the culture of industry, its value systems, corporate/management codes of ethics and care. As such, it contributes to the morale and subsequently effectiveness and devotion of the employees. Districts approach, however, did not take into the account neither the ethical/morale nor potential legal consequences when was executed.

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

tbcThe MWRD policies on salaries, sick days, etc.., like those used in most government agencies are outdated. In my opinion Wages, Pension, Sick Day pays etc., should be designed and decided upon through policies that take into the account human welfare factors (such as expertise, experience, level of employees achievements, progresses made ?), characteristics of the work (stress level, risks associated with the job), and socioeconomic factors and developmental goals. Those should also be comparable to those offered in private sectors or other government agencies (assuming all other factors remains almost the same). Most importantly employer, in this case MWRD should consider investing in its employee?s ?evolving welfare? by offering policies that CAN BE CUSTOMIZED according to the EMPLOYEES NEED AND PREFERENCE, i.e. providing financing programs that could assist with/facilitating ?education?, ?heath care ?, ?flexible work hours?, ? family-based programs? and as such within the frameworks of the labor laws. Such policies, could improve morale, increase effectiveness, and would feed societal development in a democratic, civilized manner.

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.

Chlorination is common method of wastewater disinfection and is used worldwide for the disinfection of pathogens before discharging treated wastewater to receiving streams, rivers or lakes. Chlorination, therefore, is a preventive measure for reducing risks associated with exposure of human to pathogens via multiple routes (drinking, swimming, snorkeling, or consuming eating contaminated shellfish). The need, and the level of success associated with such practices, however, depends on the characteristics and intended use of the treated water, receiving water ways and estimated exposure risks. Also important are the evaluation of the cumulative environmental, economics, and social impacts of these projects. Other options to be considered include use of (UV) light, iodine, or other chemicals in addition to application of sand filters to remove viruses. Education and public awareness, and design of policies and regulations that are specific to the intended use and the characteristics of the receiving waters are essential to the need, and success of these programs.