What Foxconn's water usage could mean for Lake Michigan

Published: Feb. 5, 2018 at 4:03 PM CST
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Tech giant Foxconn is looking to divert 7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan for operations at its plant in Racine County. It's an issue water quality experts are looking at closely as an agreement unravels with the Wisconsin DNR.

“Just because we don't know exactly what they're going to be putting in the water, it's difficult to predict exactly what's going to come out on the other side,” said Professor David Strifling, who is the Director of Water Law and Policy at Marquette University Law School.

Foxconn wouldn't be the first. Many other industries -- Georgia Pacific for example -- work with municipalities for water they use. But some people are concerned about quality and what this could mean for communities along the lakeshore.

“Here's what to be thinking about. You need to look at what the Foxconn process looks like, their permit applications start coming in, try to figure out exactly what they are going to be putting into the water, and then evaluate that against what their treatment process is, and what the Racine treatment facility process is,” said Professor Strifling.

Even environmentalists in Northeast Wisconsin will be watching closely.

“I think the moral of the story is, humans have a big impact on our system, in the water system, and we have to be thoughtful about how we manage and use it,” said Professor Kevin Fermanich, who teaches geoscience and environmental science at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The DNR plans to study Foxconn's water usage plan. So far, Foxconn plans to put back 60 to 70% of clean, treated water it uses back into the lake.

As far as the application for the water diversion, the DNR and the governor will have the final say.