Wisconsinites had their one chance to speak up publicly about a proposal to let Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn use 7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan.
The City of Racine is asking for an exception to the Great Lakes Water compact on its behalf — and it’s up to the Wisconsin DNR to decide.
The corporation is building a massive, $10 billion LCD display screen manufacturing plant in Mt. Pleasant, a village in rural Racine county.
Hundreds of people attended last night’s hearing at a conference center in Racine, which lasted more than three hours.
Most of approximately forty speakers spoke against letting the City of Racine pump the 7 million gallons a day that Foxconn’s requesting for their planned Mt. Pleasant site.
But some community leaders were on board, including Racine Mayor Cory Mason. He says the Foxconn plan won’t get any exemptions when it comes to its water treatment process.
“Not on my watch are we going to let an application go through for a permit that wouldn’t meet or beat every local state or federal standard,” Mason says.
Mason is a former Democratic state representative who voted with Republicans to rubber stamp a deal that would give Foxconn a $3 billion incentives package for building the manufacturing site.
The factory’s expected to bring 13,000 jobs to southeastern Wisconsin.
But critics point to Foxconn’s record of pollution around its factories in China, and worry about the exemptions it’s already been granted — like waiving an environmental impact statement for the company and letting it fill in wetlands without DNR approval.
One of their biggest concerns is a lack of public transparency about the contaminants Foxconn plans to use that could end up in the water that goes back into lake Michigan.
Shaili Pfieffer with the DNR said in a response to a written question last night that they don’t have specific information regarding what contaminants could end up in Foxconn’s waste water.
Mt. Pleasant is what’s called a “straddling community” in Great Lakes parlance. That means it’s partially in and partially out of the Great Lakes basin, which is the area that’s allowed to use water from the lakes.
Critics say allowing Foxconn to use water from Lake Michigan will open the floodgates to other foreign companies moving into the Great Lakes region.
“If we allow this to happen, it is going to happen all over the basin with other states, and then it’s going to be the other thirsty states and nations and corporations who come, and we’re not going to have a leg to stand on,” Jennifer Giegerich with the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters says.
This was the only public hearing for the water diversion proposal, but people can submit written comments through March 21st. The DNR’s set to make a decision this spring.