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Environmental Groups Start To Question Foxconn’s Thirst For Lake Michigan Water

Concerns Mount Over Public Water Use For Private Entity

Racine waterfront along Lake Michigan
Racine waterfront along Lake Michigan. Amy Meredith (CC BY-ND)

Environmental groups are criticizing a request to divert 7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan to use in Foxconn’s planned factory in Racine County.

The diversion application was sent to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Monday, Jan. 28, 2018.

Foxconn’s huge LCD display plant will extend into a portion of the Village of Mount Pleasant that’s outside the Lake Michigan basin. That means state of Wisconsin officials need to OK the diversion under terms of a 2008 multi-state agreement known as the Great Lakes Compact.

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Cheryl Nenn of Milwaukee Riverkeeper says one of her concerns is that out of the daily 7 million gallons, only about 60 percent would be treated and returned to the lake. She says the rest would be consumed in the manufacturing process.

“And so, from that perspective, we feel this application deserves a lot of scrutiny. The whole point of the Great Lakes Compact is to essentially keep Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes,” Nenn said.

The DNR says it will study Foxconn’s water usage plan with an eye toward maximizing the amount of returned water.

Nenn also said Great Lakes diversions are only supposed to be for public water supplies.

“In this case, it looks like they’re looking for an exception to the ban on diversions solely to provide water to a private entity in this case, you know a company coming in to build these LCD screens,” she said.

Nenn added that it seems unusual that the Racine Water Utility filed the application, instead of the Village of Mount Pleasant. Racine says it filed the application because it already supplies water to much of Mount Pleasant. Economic development officials say the factory would benefit the whole region.

The DNR and Gov. Scott Walker have final say over the application.