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‘Threat to the Great Lakes:’ Ocean of opinions during hearing on Foxconn water diversion proposal

STURTEVANT — Foxconn Technology Group said it is committed to good environmental practices ahead of a public hearing on Racine officials' request to draw 7 million gallons of water daily from Lake Michigan for a proposed Foxconn plant.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources scheduled the hearing on the request Wednesday, March 7 in Sturtevant. The company said approval of the city of Racine's request is key to setting up its infrastructure.

Some said they're concerned Foxconn will drain natural resources after learning how much water Foxconn needs.

Foxconn will not only have a major impact on jobs and manufacturing in Wisconsin, it's going to need a lot of water to function. During the packed hearing concerning Racine's water diversion application, there was an ocean of opinions.

"I encourage the DNR to approve this application," said David DeGroot, Mount Pleasant village president.

"Diversions outside the basin are a threat to the Great Lakes as much as invasive species are," a speaker said.

According to the DNR, seven million gallons of Lake Michigan water could be diverted per day. The proposal is being brought forward by the "Racine Water Utility" to extend service to parts of Mount Pleasant, where the 1,200-acre Foxconn campus will be, and where there currently isn't a public water supply. Racine will, in turn, act as the supplier.

"Whatever you don't lose through consumptive use -- like a cooling tower or something -- has to be returned back to the Great Lakes," said Adam Freihoefer with the DNR.

The issue has raised concerns from environmental groups, specifically if the application violates the Great Lakes Compact.

"That is certainly something we are looking at right now. We've gotten a lot of comments and concerns about that point," said Freihoefer.

On social media, Governor Scott Walker has piped in, pointing out Racine sold more water two decades ago than the projected 20 million gallons by 2021.

"We believe that water conservation and water pollution prevention should be a high priority of all governments in the basin," a speaker said.

In a statement, Foxconn stressed its commitment to 'environmental sustainability.' During a recent interview with FOX6's Brad Hicks in Japan, the president of a subsidiary coordinating efforts in Racine County indicated conservation plans are already in place.

"We need to have so-called zero drop -- means all the water is fully recycled and treated, purified water. In this campus, we are able to recycle the water 97%," said Yueh Way Sun.

The Taiwanese electronics company wants to build a massive flat-screen facility in Mount Pleasant, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Milwaukee and 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Chicago.

The $10 billion manufacturing center could employ up to 13,000 workers.