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Foxconn Will Drain 7 Million Gallons of Water Per Day From Lake Michigan to Make LCD Screens (gizmodo.com) 210

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources granted permission to Taiwanese tech manufacturer Foxconn, best known for assembling Apple's iPhones, to siphon off seven million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, despite protests from conservation groups. From a report: The massive diversion of water from the lake will be used to produce LCD screens at the company's planned $10 billion, 20 million square foot manufacturing plant set to be built in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. Nearly 2.7 million gallons of the water -- about 39 percent of the daily intake from the factory -- will be lost in the process, primarily from evaporation. The remaining water will be treated and returned to the lake basin.

Wisconsin's DNR noted in a statement that the requested withdrawal will "only amount to a 0.07 percent increase in the total surface water withdrawals from Lake Michigan." For environmentalists in the region, the issue is not so much the diversion for the Foxconn factory itself but rather the precedent it will set for how the lake water can be used. "If we allow this to happen, it's going to happen all over the basin, with other states and then it's going to be the thirsty states and nations to come," Jennifer Giegerich, the government affairs director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, warned during a public hearing about the diversion, according to the Wisconsin Gazette.

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Foxconn Will Drain 7 Million Gallons of Water Per Day From Lake Michigan to Make LCD Screens

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  • Manufacturing (Score:5, Informative)

    by friedmud ( 512466 ) on Sunday April 29, 2018 @10:08AM (#56523277)

    If you want manufacturing jobs - then you have to let them do manufacturing here. Manufacturing takes water and power... no way around it.

    I'm sure that the water is not so much "used" (as in it disappears)... I'm sure they have a method for returning most of it. I would be more interested in what their controls are for the re-release of that water.

    • Re:Manufacturing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by friedmud ( 512466 ) on Sunday April 29, 2018 @10:14AM (#56523313)

      Just looked through the article - they estimate that ~40% of the water will be evaporated - with 60% going back. So that means this is only going to "drain" 2.8M Gallons per Day... and how much of that evaporated water will fall back into the lake as rain too?

      We simply can't have it both ways: we have to find some middle ground with manufacturing if we want the jobs. As long as they are using the natural resources responsibly and not polluting them or making a long-term impact... we need to allow them to do their thing.

      • Re:Manufacturing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Sunday April 29, 2018 @10:19AM (#56523335)

        Just looked through the article - they estimate that ~40% of the water will be evaporated - with 60% going back. So that means this is only going to "drain" 2.8M Gallons per Day... and how much of that evaporated water will fall back into the lake as rain too?

        We simply can't have it both ways: we have to find some middle ground with manufacturing if we want the jobs. As long as they are using the natural resources responsibly and not polluting them or making a long-term impact... we need to allow them to do their thing.

        No industrial process is going to the 100% clean

        So the big question is what else goes back with the water?

        • Agreed - so instead of talking about the "7M Gallons, the horror!"... let's talk about the environmental protection controls and oversight that are going to ensure that this operation is safe.

          • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

            Agreed - so instead of talking about the "7M Gallons, the horror!"... let's talk about the environmental protection controls and oversight that are going to ensure that this operation is safe.

            Which brings us into the realm of the EPA - which these days is problematic to say the least.

            • Which brings us into the realm of the EPA - which these days is problematic to say the least.

              Yep, between what the Chinese know and care about pollution (not much), and our current EPA, Wisconsin is screwed.

        • The Clean Water Act [epa.gov] would be a good place to start... Anything on the banned list is, well, banned. And it's often true that discharged wastewater is actually cleaner than the original intake water.
          • The Clean Water Act [epa.gov] would be a good place to start... Anything on the banned list is, well, banned. And it's often true that discharged wastewater is actually cleaner than the original intake water.

            Ask the residents of Flint, Michigan how those EPA rules worked out, and how well they were enforced.

            • The contaminants in Flint were already in the pipe network the water was delivered through. The lead pipe network was sitting there, a ticking time-bomb. It was the introduction of slightly more corrosive water that dissolved the lead into the water supply that made the problem. If the pipe network had been ceramic, or pvc, or stainless steel, there would not be a problem.

              • "If the pipe network had been ceramic, or pvc, or stainless steel, there would not be a problem."

                In a country that still nails power lines to wooden posts as it did when Edison still was alive?

                You must be kidding.

                • What's your problem with wood, exactly? It's one of the best construction materials in the world for many applications. It's strong, flexible, easy to work with, cheap, and not bad for the environment (unless you're making your wooden posts out of old-growth redwood or something). It actually can be carbon negative, since wood forms a natural carbon store. Just because it's old doesn't make it bad.

                  • Cons: the preservatives put in the wood; heavy and bulky compared to composite poles; 30-year nominal life
                    Pros: readily available; no spalling issues of concrete; “prettier”; less likely to kill passengers in a collision.

                    Trade offs like everything, but generally only the composite poles seem to offer significant improvements.

            • Yes, too bad you really do not have recourse against the quasi-Governmental agencies that are utilities! Private industry tends to get held to a much higher standard. And since this factory will be built about 4 decades AFTER passage of the Clean Water Act (rather than a few decades before, as in Flint), the odds of it being enforced are quite a bit higher.
          • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

            And it's often true that discharged wastewater is actually cleaner than the original intake water.

            Curiously, though, that isn't necessarily a good thing when you're discharging into an ecosystem. If the water has been cleaned of nutrients, you can get a dead patch around the outlet pipes. Changes in the temperature of the water between intake and discharge can also have undesirable effects on the ecosystem.

            • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
              Nobody is saying it won't have any effect at all, but you need to take into account the fact that the waste water is 5 billionth of the total water in the lake. It's environmental impact is basically nothing compared to the positive economic impact of being able to start this factory.

              If you can't build the LCD screens in the US where the consumers are, then you are building them elsewhere and shipping them here, the process of which probably produces more pollutants than the factory itself.
        • by Kohath ( 38547 )

          No industrial process is going to the 100% clean

          So the big question is what else goes back with the water?

          A higher standard of living for people in the community.

        • No industrial process is going to the 100% clean

          This is true most of the time, but in really polluted places with under-developed industry you sometimes see some pretty crazy stuff happen when western company comes in and sets up a factory following the standards of their home country.

          When Finnish paper giant UPM set up it's paper mill in Uruguay the factory was set up with the exact same anti-pollution measures that they use in their factories over in Finland, which are way more thorough than what local companies who also drain and dump their waste w

        • That's not the question. The question is whether you want it happening in Lake Michigan or some body of water whose name you can't pronounce in mainland China or some third-world country. If you want your gizmos, it'll happen somewhere. The only question is who gets the income from making it.
      • 2.8 m gallons is a very tiny amount relative to the source. Extremely tiny.
      • by jonadab ( 583620 )

        > how much of that evaporated water will
        > fall back into the lake as rain too?

        Either directly or indirectly, most of it. It's going to evaporate in Wisconsin. Prevailing wind direction in the area is west-to-east. If you start in Wisconsin and go east, you pass over the drainage basin of the upper great lakes. What doesn't fall in Lake Michigan, or a river or lake that drains into it, will fall over Lakes Huron, or a river or lake that drains into it. Which is technically the same lake. (The str

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      I agree - where will the water go, and what will it be used for?

      If it's just for cooling then it will most likely end up back in the lake.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      What I find curious is that they intend to take in 7 million gallons and then discharge 4.3 million gallons of treated wastewater. Why not recycle that 4.3 million gallons and take in only the 2.7 million gallons lost to evaporation?

      I have to conclude that the discharge water is too contaminated for the plant to use in its own processes. That might not be an environmental deal-breaker; dilution plus degradation of the contaminants may well result in negligible environmental impact. But that's certainly w

      • The discharge water may not be contaminated from the industrial processes. It appears the primary need is ultra-pure water, for rinsing. The discharge water may simply be the discharge of the purification stage, where the 'contamination' is merely the concentration of existing impurities. Reverse osmosis, for example, doesn't really do much other than move impurities around.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      If you want manufacturing jobs...

      The last thing liberals want is more jobs in the US. They need the stock market to crash and unemployment to go up in order to regain the power they've lost.

  • Or once the factory uses the water, is it treated to a level so that it is cleaner than when it came from the lake and then is returned back into the lake?
    • by kqc7011 ( 525426 )
      Forgot to add something about the 2.7 millions being evaporated, it takes lots of energy to evaporate that much water. Will the cloud from that mass (22+ million pounds) of evaporated water increase the rain / snow in the area where the plant is located?
      • Lake Michigan can naturally evaporate around 100,000 times that amount per day in the first place; I don't think you'll see any significant change in local climate, other than from the greater expanse of parking lots, buildings, and localized electrical heating.
    • by rjune ( 123157 )

      Zebra mussels and quagga mussels have dramatically cleaned up the Great Lakes. It has come at some cost: http://www.chicagotribune.com/... [chicagotribune.com]

  • 7 million sounds scary but it is not that much, only about 11 Olympic sized pools.

    I would be far more worried about the treated water they return not being treated well enough. Also, why not reuse your own treated water instead of pumping more out?
  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Sunday April 29, 2018 @10:12AM (#56523297)

    Oh, wait, it's not. Lake Michigan is somewhere around 4500 cubic km of water. And seven million gallons per day means that, even if all the water removed is pumped to Arizona for disposal, it'll be 500,000 years before the lake goes dry.

    And the water taken out won't be pumped to Arizona. Eventually, it'll go right back into the lake....

    Color me unimpressed with the Environmental Catastrophe In The Making....

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by apoc.famine ( 621563 )

      While I'm not really on the 'environmental disaster" bandwagon, your argument is stupid. Are you unfamiliar with what lakes are and how they work?

      Lakes have topography. They're not cylinders. If you drain 10' of water from a lake, it gets a LOT smaller. Large amounts of any lake are less than 10' deep. That impacts the rivers that flow out of it, all of the people that live near it, all the boating and shipping that uses it, and the massive amount of wetlands around the lake. It also kills off a ton of shal

      • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Sunday April 29, 2018 @10:55AM (#56523457)
        2.6e-5 km^3 water drained divided by the 58000 km^2 surface area = 4.5e-10 km of depth lost per day = 0.00045 mm/day, which is slightly less than your assumed 10 feet. Plus, this water will return to the lake pretty quickly. The water consumption is the stupidest thing to be worried about. It's not like they're sending it into a black hole for disposal. The contamination of the returning water is the main thing to be concerned about.
      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        If Foxconn builds 1000 more flat screen factories, it might barely start to matter.

      • Lakes have topography. They're not cylinders. If you drain 10' of water from a lake, it gets a LOT smaller.

        Depending on the shape of the lake, you might have a point.

        Or not. Note, for the record, that 7000000 gallons per day, given the size of Lake Michigan, translates to... 0.5 MICROMETERS drop in the lake daily. So, if this plant operates without returning the water to the lake for a year, the lake's depth will drop a whole 0.16 millimeters.

        So, in a century, the lake will drop the best part of an inch

      • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

        You can't just expect to remove a lot of water from a lake and nothing to happen. I don't think this particular factory is going to be a huge issue, but the point made in the summary is an important one: This is the first major exemption granted. If it sets the stage for more of them in other states, they could eventually add up to enough to be really significant.

        If it's an issue, there's the Great Lakes Compact that all the bordering lakes and Canada have signed in to. Any member state can ask for a hearing where all the other states can decide that a diversion is OK or not.

        In the grand scheme of things, even if there were dozens of these factories opening up, it would have a negligible impact on the amount of water in the entire great lakes region. The largest impact has been dredging the Detroit river for shipping, since they re-dredged a bit deeper about ten yea

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        If you drain 10' of water

        Reductio ad absurdum.

        And if you drained 1000' from Lake Michigan, it would be gone. Why not use an argument that even remotely resembles the actual situation? Drawing off 3.3 million gallons of water will reduce the lake level by less than a wavelength of visible light. What is a legitimate argument is that there are rules and processes that have to be followed to make such a draw. And so far, it appears that Foxconn followed the proper procedures. And even if you extrapolate this precedent to some ridicul

        • If you drain 10' of water

          Reductio ad absurdum.

          And if you drained 1000' from Lake Michigan, it would be gone. Why not use an argument that even remotely resembles the actual situation? Drawing off 3.3 million gallons of water will reduce the lake level by less than a wavelength of visible light. What is a legitimate argument is that there are rules and processes that have to be followed to make such a draw. And so far, it appears that Foxconn followed the proper procedures. And even if you extrapolate this precedent to some ridiculous level, it still isn't that big a deal.

          Actually, that's the contention with the groups opposing this - that Wisconsin is violating a multi-state and international agreement not to draw off water from Lake Michigan, and in doing so, if it gets away with it, it opens the door to everyone else doing it. Add 50 other companies drawing off 7 million gallons per day, with typical efficiency and corner cutting - how many years until Lake Michigan is a contaminated swamp?

          • by PPH ( 736903 )

            Actually, reading TFA, it appears that Foxconn and the city of Racine (who made the request) are meeting the requirements of the water agreement. And if you search on-line for other Lake Michigan water requests, quite a few have been approved since the latest regulations have been put in place.

            Arguments over the 'spirit' of the water compact are pretty meaningless when communities make permit applications for more swimming pools, golf courses and rich people's developments. And get no push back from the gr

      • Large amounts of any lake are less than 10' deep.

        And some amounts of lake Michigan are 1/4 of a km deep.

        You can't just expect to remove a lot of water from a lake and nothing to happen.

        Define "a lot". 7 million gallons per day is significantly less than the 2 billion gallons per day removed by the city of Chicago just by reversing the flow of the Chicago river, and that's before you take into account commercial, industrial and residential users of the lake.

        Never before has the phrase: Metaphorical drop of piss in the ocean been more apt.

    • Indeed it's pretty stupid to worry about the drop of water that is being removed. The main thing to be concerned about is what happens to the water. Obviously, it's going to find its way back into the wild pretty quickly and back into the lake eventually. The main question is how contaminated by the electronics-manufacturing process it will become.
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      The real story should be about the people complaining. It’s a very small amount of water. The effects will be zero. Yet people are still taking the time and effort to lodge complaints about it.

      The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is risking their credibility. Credibility is useful if you want to be listened to on something that's a real concern in the future.

  • Not really a lot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Sunday April 29, 2018 @10:29AM (#56523353) Journal
    According to this study [umich.edu], natural evaporative losses can be up to 0.6 inches per day. Assuming it's really just under half an inch (about 12mm), natural evaporation from Lake Michigan can reach 183 billion gallons per day. That 2.7 million gallons lost per day - and as the article says, most of it to evaporation - is about 0.0014% of the current evaporation. Is moving evaporation from the lake surface to a site right next to the lake surface an issue? In other words, relocating around 1 thousandth of 1 percent o the evaporation is the concern?
  • Insignificant (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

    The water is not lost.
    The water is either returned to the lake
    or the water goes into the air and then returns to the environment as rain, snow, etc.
    This is much hubaloo over nothing.

    • There is a thing called "Thermal Pollution", where manufacturing plants take water from natural bodies, use it in their processing, and then return it, but at a different temperature from when it was taken out. This can have a bigger effect on the environment than just removing the water altogether.
      • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

        A beautiful example of "thermal pollution" is at some of the nuclear power plants. The one near us outputs warm water which has resulted in far greater growth of plants and animals in the area. The "thermal pollution" was beneficial. One man's pollutant is another man's gold.

  • by rjune ( 123157 ) on Sunday April 29, 2018 @11:51AM (#56523661)

    I worked at the Linwood water filtration plant, one of two in the City of Milwaukee. There was a North and a South side section of the plant and the slowest rate the plant could handle was 30 million gallons per day. That doesn't count how much the Howard Avenue plant was pulling. Lake Michigan has one quadrillion gallons of water, that's 1,000,000,000,000,000 gallons. http://blog.livnfresh.com/how-... [livnfresh.com] If this group was truly concerned about Lake Michigan, they would be complaining about the untreated sewage that MMSD (Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District) discharges during heavy rainfalls. The city of Milwaukee has combined sewers (sanitary and storm) so that heavy rainfall overwhelms the treatment plants. The deep tunnel system can't always hold enough, thus the "diversions" The city of Milwaukee doesn't want to spent the money to separate their sewers like most everyone else has.

  • If you are opposed to this what would you want to happen instead?

    • Not have LCD panels? If you like devices with screens, those screens need to be manufactured somewhere, and all manufacturing will consume resources and generate pollution.
    • Use a cleaner manufacturing process? Cleaner manufacturing processes cost more. Are you willing to pay more for your toys and tools that use LCD panels?
    • Manufacture the panels somewhere else? Pushing the environmental issues elsewhere is on dubious moral ground (although we
    • My assumption is that permitting and regulatory processes will have already required the company to meet the bar of not polluting the water too much.

      I thought Lake Michigan was in the US?

  • They should have put it in Detroit (their water is already contaminated) or in New Orleans/Houston plenty of areas in both regions that would love less water around seeing as both groups of dumbasses built in active flood zones.
  • So many on the far left scream about the pollution and heavy resource use of manufacturing, and they absolutely should. BUT, many of these ppl are fine with offshoring. IOW, they are fine with driving their gas cars and using laptops, phones, etc. as long as the oil comes from Africa, middle east, with America oil companies that cut environmental laws, and resources that comes from Africa/South America, where Chinese companies ignore not just environmental laws, but also have no issue with using 7 y.o. labo
  • 7 million? really?

    >> Nearly 2.7 million gallons of the waterâ"about 39 percent of the daily intake from the factoryâ"will be lost in the process, primarily from evaporation. The remaining water will be treated and returned to the lake basin.

    >> Wisconsinâ(TM)s DNR noted in a statement that the requested withdrawal will âoeonly amount to a 0.07 percent increase in the total surface water withdrawals from Lake Michigan.â

    0,07%! oh noes its the zombie apocalypse!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 29, 2018 @02:07PM (#56524329)

    The real issue is whether or not chemical pollutants are being released in the waste water.

    Assuming the wate water is pretreated at the plant to remove manufacturing chemicals, either with clarification or ultrafiltration, there is no issue with significant water "usage".

    Evaporation gives me a minor cause for concern, as I assume the evaporation occurs in curing or drying ovens, which allows for the potential of VOC/SVOC releases, but I assume they will have the customary protections used in modern Western plants, such as wet scrubbers and after burners, along with real time participate monitoring and emissions sampling. Generally, permits for any reasonable sized heating operation in Wisconsin requires an extended evaluation and environmental safety plan.

    Yes, I'm in the environmental industry in Wisconsin.

  • Lake Michigan contains 1.5x10^15 gallons. 7 million gallons equals 1/2 of one millionth of 1 percent of that water.
    61% will be returned back to the lake, the rest will evaporate into the atmosphere, contributing to precipition somewhere downwind, sooner or later.

    What's the problem, other than the Left's hatred of Capitalism?

  • They would stop manufacturing them. Simple solution.
  • by kenh ( 9056 )

    Nearly 2.7 million gallons of the water -- about 39 percent of the daily intake from the factory -- will be lost in the process, primarily from evaporation. The remaining water will be treated and returned to the lake basin.

    From what I remember from 6th grade Earth Science classes, water evaporating simply cycles back into the ecosystem, being redeposited on earth as rain, entering creeks and streams which feed int rivers that feed lakes like Lake Michigan...

    The rest of the water is used and returned to the lake, so the issue is what, exactly?

  • Water doesn't just disappear. I mean, they'll put it back when they're done with it, right?

    Right?

  • "Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources granted permission to Taiwanese tech manufacturer Foxconn, best known for assembling Apple's iPhones"

    And also manufacturer for Amazon, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Microsoft ..
  • Both environmentalists and Paul Ryan's pro-Chinese corporate shills are missing the point. This isn't about the total amount of Lake Michigan water used or even the significant percentage of treated water used. As the article points out, Paul Ryan's pet project sets a precedent of diverting water out of the Great Lakes basin. Only a few kilometers and a few meters of elevation divide the Great Lakes water from the Mississippi river system. Where the plant is located, wastewater would flow away from the Grea

  • It looks like the "dry Lake Michigan" movie trope (I, Robot; Johnny Mnemonic, etc) is actually going to come true.

  • Foxconn isn't the only manufacturer dependent on Lake Michigan water. Others include:
    • BP [chicagotribune.com]

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