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Commentary by Dave DeGroot: Air and water permitting for Foxconn

Commentary by Dave DeGroot: Air and water permitting for Foxconn

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Foxconn’s advanced manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant will be transformational for our community — creating new jobs and new tax base for our residents and enhanced economic opportunities for the entire state. At the same time, we must ensure that the project is environmentally sustainable, protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink. That’s why I’m pleased that Foxconn is being held to the exact same rigorous standards for water, wastewater and air permits as every other industrial user in our community.

Recently, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a public hearing regarding the City of Racine’s straddling community water diversion application on behalf of the Village of Mount Pleasant. The application is to extend water service to the portion of Mount Pleasant that is located in the Mississippi River basin, including the future site of the manufacturing facility being constructed by Foxconn.

At the hearing, the DNR heard from hundreds of residents, and some who traveled from as far as Madison to provide testimony. There were a few misconceptions that came up that I hope have been resolved. For one, of the up to 7 million gallons per day that would be diverted, all water, minus consumptive use, must be pre-treated by Foxconn according to permitted standards, and treated by the Racine Wastewater Utility prior to being returned to Lake Michigan. Foxconn will be treated the same as any water user and required to abide by all local, state, and federal regulations to ensure the water being returned to Lake Michigan is of good quality.

There were also some concerns about the “public water supply” criterion of the diversion application. The Great Lakes Compact and the enabling legislation from the state require that a diversion be used as part of the “public water supply.” That’s exactly what this diversion will do. The Racine Water Utility is the public water supply for Mount Pleasant, as it is for most of Eastern Racine County. The vast majority of the Village of Mount Pleasant is within the Lake Michigan water basin and is already served by the Racine Water Utility, 88 percent of Mount Pleasant water customers are residential.

On April 3, there will also be an opportunity for the public to provide feedback on Foxconn’s application for air permits to operate the facility as part of a public hearing hosted by DNR. As in the case of wastewater, Foxconn will be required to meet the same air quality standards as any other industrial user.

With any manufacturing process, some emissions are expected. To ensure that the emissions are fully regulated and fall within acceptable standards, Foxconn has submitted to the DNR four air pollution control permit applications for different parts of the campus, including a liquid crystal module (LCM) assembly plant, an energy facility, a nitrogen plant, and a flat panel display fabrication facility.

These applications are being reviewed by the DNR according to the requirements under the Clean Air Act and state air pollution regulations. Based on the initial review, DNR has issued preliminary permit approval, which is a typical step to take at the time a public hearing is announced. A final decision will be made based in part on public comment received at the hearing and through written submission.

Dave DeGroot is president of the Village of Mount Pleasant.

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