Racial equity in wastewater and biosolids

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Racial equity in wastewater and biosolids

We are in a pandemic. A pandemic that has impacted all of us, but one which is disproportionally impacting indigenous and people of color, especially black people.  Deaths from COVID-19 for black Americans are nearly two times greater than would be expected based on their share of the population [1]. The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others show the systemic racism and inequity that persists in the United States today. 

This month’s member spotlight highlights two Northwest Biosolids members doing equity work, but it is also a call to all members – to review your policies and practices, to invest in training and education, and to do what you can to build a better future that dismantles racist systems. As leaders in the biosolids industry, we challenge and encourage Northwest Biosolids members to take a look at their own organizations, their implicit bias, their hiring practices, and their engagement with the community to see how they can do better. 

There are many other organizations doing this work, and re-thinking how they do business. If you want more resources, information, or to share your own story, please let us know so we can support you.

Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace and this is supported through a Respectful Workplace Policy.  The Policy expects that every employee has the right to be free from discrimination, that all employees have a responsibility not to engage in discrimination against others, and that all employees take responsibility for their own actions and their impact on others. Metro Vancouver also supports ongoing training around Unconscious Bias for all its staff. In early 2020, Metro Vancouver embarked on further developing its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy in order to increase efforts in this area. Throughout 2020, staff from across Metro Vancouver will be invited to participate on committees and lead the way in taking action to effect change. 

King County
King County has priority areas and initiatives, such as climate change, regional mobility, and equity and social justice. The County’s equity initiative includes an Office of Equity and Social Justice, a strategic plan, and more. King County is prioritizing racial justice as part of our government work overall and implementation of our Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) Strategic Plan. They are intentionally leading with racial justice to confront the historical and racial inequities that continue to exist in their community and their organization. These racial inequities affect all of us and our ability to live well and thrive.  

At King County Wastewater Treatment Division, this work rolls down to everyone. There is mandatory training for all staff, and an active Equity and Social Justice Committee has representation from all work teams and has a dedicated work plan that spans everything from capital projects and community services to education and outreach to human resources. This work plan is a start, but there is always more work to do. College and high school internship programs that focus on screening in and on potential, rather than experience, and which heavily recruit from communities with black, indigenous, and people of color are one great example of this work. The committee also has a sharepoint site, and a blog called the Clarifier to help management and staff learn and engage in pro-equity work on their teams. 

In light of recent events, the Equity and Social Justice Committee held a community forum, co-facilitated by black staff and the equity program lead to give staff the opportunity to speak about how they are impacted by the killings and protests. The division director and assistance director also spoke, and provided space for their staff to listen, learn, and support each other. 

[1] https://covidtracking.com/race

https://www.kingcounty.gov/elected/executive/equity-social-justice.aspx

Some resources to begin your own personal journey are linked below.