Residents express concerns at public hearing about Foxconn's water-use plans

Dozens of concerned residents and activists asked a Wisconsin agency on Wednesday to reject an application from the city of Racine to draw 7 million gallons of water daily from Lake Michigan for a proposed Foxconn plant.

Critics of a plan to help a Foxconn Technology Group factory take water from Lake Michigan outnumbered the idea's supporters at a hearing Wednesday held by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Sturtevant. "Diversions outside the (Great Lakes) basin are as big a threat to the Great Lakes as invasive species and climate change".

DNR issues a response to comments and issues a final decision on the diversion application.

The hearing is one step of the application approval process.

Persons wishing to comment on the diversion application should do so by close of business on March 21, 2018.

The city's application indicates that the Racine Water Utility now has approved capacity to supply the proposed diversion amount and would not need a new or increased withdrawal to meet the projected diversion demand.

During a presentation on the request, Pfeiffer said of the 7 million gallons requested to be diverted per day, 5.8 million gallons would be used to serve Foxconn.

The application identifies a consumptive use of up to 2.7 million gallons per day associated with the diversion.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports environmental groups and residents question whether the proposal meets requirements of the Great Lakes Compact. She cited section 4.9.1 of the compact that states "all the water so transferred shall be used exclusively for public water supply purposes within the straddling community".

But Mount Pleasant Village President David DeGroot said the lake water would be a safe drinking water supply for more than two square miles of his community "including for the anticipated thousands of Wisconsin workers who would be employed by companies within the area".

"Rather, the complete opposite is true", she said. Consumptive use is water that is not returned because it is either incorporated into a product or lost through evaporation.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason said Foxconn will have to treat its sewage at the factory before sending it to the city wastewater facility.

Racine officials contend Foxconn's water needs are less than the industrial demand of decades ago. The city withdrew an annual average of 16.9 million gallons of water per day in 2016. They also said that Foxconn has not provided enough detail about what toxic chemicals it might be pouring into the lake when it returns most of the water, and whether they are risky. The city's wastewater treatment plant discharges to Lake Michigan.

The DNR would need to approve Foxconn's pre-treatment system.

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