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DNR: Foxconn wants to divert 7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan

Steven Verburg

Wisconsin State Journal

Foxconn wants to pump an average of 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water per day for its proposed LCD screen factory in southeastern Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources said Monday.

The sprawling manufacturing facility would return most of the water to the lake, but 2.7 million gallons per day would be consumed -- either evaporated or incorporated into a product, the DNR said.

The Racine Water Utility withdrew 16.9 million gallons daily in 2016 and it already has capacity to handle the additional supply for Foxconn.

The water usage amount was included in an application for an exception to a ban on water withdrawals by communities that straddle the boundary between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

The city of Racine submitted the application as the public water system operator that would be pumping water to the proposed Foxconn site in Mount Pleasant, which straddles the basin boundary.

The manufacture of liquid crystal display panels for televisions and other electronic devices requires very large amounts of water to clean each layer of circuitry as it is fabricated. Under state law, the water would need to be treated before it was pumped back into the lake.

Pumping water to a community entirely outside the basin would require approval by governors of the other Great Lakes Compact states, but the DNR has authority to decide when the community includes at least some land in the Great Lakes basin.

The DNR will determine whether the application meets compact requirements after it conducts a public hearing and accepts written public comment for a period of time.

The DNR said it will try to conclude its review within 90 days. Details will be posted on a DNR webpage, the department said.

The Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker approved $4.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies for the Taiwan-based company. Foxconn wants to build a $10 billion complex including LCD and assembly plants employing as many as 13,000 employees.