Opinion

Racine diversion application will allow Foxconn to pollute water resources

Chancellor Rebecca Blank confirmed that this is one of the largest gifts UW-Madison has received towards research programs and the university as a whole. 

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The DNR received a straddling community diversion application from the city of Racine on January 26, 2018, and has begun reviewing the application. The city of Racine requests to divert up to an annual average of 7 million gallons of water a day in the straddling community, the village of Mount Pleasant. The diversion area includes part of the area identified by Racine County as the future site of the Foxconn facility. The application identifies that all wastewater, less an allowance for consumptive use of 2.7 million gallons a day, will be returned to the Lake Michigan basin via the Racine wastewater treatment plant.

The Great Lakes contain 21% of the world’s freshwater and are one of our nation’s most precious resources. The intent of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact) is to protect the Great Lakes from withdrawals with limited exceptions. These exceptions include withdrawals on behalf of communities and straddling communities in the Great Lakes Basin. While Racine and Mount Pleasant meet this definition, the Foxconn facility most certainly does not. Not only is Foxconn an internationally based private company, it is seeking this quantity of water for purely commercial purposes. Further, Foxconn is joining the Racine community simply because Governor Walker has promised more than $4.5 billion in tax breaks in exchange for a vague promise of anywhere from 3,000 to 13,000 jobs with no guarantee that these will be filled by Wisconsin residents.

The exemption to the Compact for the diversion requested by the city of Waukesha has already set a dangerous precedent, but the proposal on behalf of Racine is yet more ludicrous. While Waukesha requested an exception to the Compact in the name of public health, Racine is requesting nearly the same withdrawal amount in the name of profit. If Racine’s application is approved it will send a signal to private companies across the globe that Wisconsin’s water resources are ready for the taking.

More than 800 contaminants have already been identified in Great Lakes water and sediment. Manufacturing liquid crystal displays produces toxins known to cause heart disease and respiratory failure in animals. As of yet Foxconn has not provided even the semblance of a plan for ensuring the quality of the 4.2 million gallons of water it plans to return to Lake Michigan each day, a quantity representing a 125% increase in water to be regularly handled by Racine’s wastewater treatment plant. This is especially concerning given Foxconn’s less than reputable environmental record. In China, they have been accused of dumping toxic heavy metals into rivers and sewers in addition to endangering workers with the use of industrial solvents.

Although this application bears Racine’s name, it is undeniably on behalf of Foxconn, which plans to use the entirety of the diverted water. In the context of the government, public is defined as “relating to the government and the services it provides for people.” Foxconn is a private corporation with the mission of “providing[ing] the lowest ‘total cost’ solution to increase the affordability of electronic products for all mankind.” Thus, this application does not meet the first straddling community diversion requirement, that the diverted water will be used solely for public water supply purposes. In conclusion, to approve this application would violate the Compact and pose a serious threat to Wisconsin’s water resources.


Public comments on the Racine diversion application can be submitted to the DNR at DNRRacineDiversionComments@wisconsin.gov until the end of the business day on Wednesday, March 21st. More information on the application can be found here

Kendl is a senior majoring in Environmental Studies/Community & Environmental Sociology. What are your thoughts on the Racine diversion application, and Foxconn as a whole? Send any and all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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