Foxconn's plan to take 7 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan draws community concern

Posted at 10:14 PM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-08 00:20:22-05

Foxconn Technology Group's plan to take seven million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan is drawing concern from some members of the community.

The company has said one of the main reasons it chose southeast Wisconsin was because of its proximity to Lake Michigan. Foxconn plans to build a massive factory that could employ up to 13,000 people.

A public hearing held Wednesday night in Sturtevant gave citizens a chance to comment on the proposed water usage plan. The state department of natural resources has to approve the plan before Foxconn can take a drop of water from the lake.

Most of the concern centers around the amount of water they want to use, the toxins that may get left behind and whether the company should even be allowed to do this under state law.

Under the plan, Foxconn would return about 60 percent, or about four million gallons a day, of the water back to Lake Michigan.

But water in Lake Michigan is protected under the Great Lakes Compact and some are saying Foxconn's request doesn't meet the standards of that agreement because it's a private company.

"I’m worried that by fudging compact provisions and by allowing clear definitions to slide, it really does set a harmful precedent," said Jodi Habush Sinykin, with Midwest Environmental Advocates.

She says she's studied the compact for about 14 years in her work, and water diversions are only granted under the compact for usage that's primarily residential.

Several community members also spoke during Wednesday's hearing citing concern over pollution in the water returned to Lake Michigan.

Foxconn will be required to pre-treat the water before it goes to the Racine Wastewater Treatment Facility.

In a lengthy statement provided by a spokesperson for Foxconn Technology Group, the company says in part:

"Foxconn is fully committed to complying with all appropriate rules and regulations that apply to our operations and to being a responsible corporate citizen. Environmental sustainability is a priority and that includes compliance with the Great Lakes Compact..."

Lucas Vebber with the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spoke at Wednesday's meeting in the small majority of attendees who support the water usage plan.

"They need this water to begin the project," he said. "This is the next step in a lengthy permit process that will allow this project to become a reality."

The DNR will continue to accept comments until March 21. After that, the department will review everything and make a decision.