EAGLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – On April 13th, the group “Stop the Mega Site” (STMS) who is opposed to a possible semiconductor manufacturing factory being built in Eagle Township in Michigan, sent a letter to two different water divisions in the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). In the letter, they voiced their concerns about water issues related to the Mega Site, which the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) calls the Michigan Manufacturing Innovation Campus (MMIC).
The Mega Site, which Michigan News Source reported on previously, is mostly being looked at by the state as a site for a chip manufacturing plant although without a current buyer, it could be used for anything. The 1,900 acres of land that the MEDC has been collecting for the project is in Clinton County who currently has jurisdiction over any zoning issues in Eagle Township. A large majority of the agricultural land that they want to use for the project is owned by MSU and will have to be re-zoned for industrial use. A potential sale of their properties, which could be sold over two times the value, would result in a windfall of millions for the cash-strapped university.
The Mega Site is being marketed by the state of Michigan as a job-creating opportunity even though township residents say there is no labor force for those jobs. The same tactic was used to promote the Chinese-linked Gotion battery plant in Green Charter Township in Mecosta County. A large amount of residents in both communities have protested against these projects citing environmental concerns and other reasons.
The letter sent to EGLE by STMS said, “Our group, “Stop the Mega Site” (STMS), is comprised of a group of concerned residents of Eagle Township, Michigan who are strongly opposed to the proposed MMIC being built in our beautiful, rural community; draining our groundwater resources; and exposing our families to exacerbated PFAS contamination from the nearby Grand Ledge Army Facility and Armory, which is an official MPART site (Michigan PFAS Action Response Team). We believe we have strong community support for our opposition. There are 2,700 residents in Eagle Township, and STMS’s Facebook page has 2,601 followers.”
The letter goes on to say, “In particular, we are gravely concerned about the large amount of groundwater the proposed development will pull from our local aquifer, which supplies residents with their drinking water. We also have significant concerns regarding whether any approved groundwater withdrawal will exacerbate the PFAS contamination plume currently emanating from the Grand Ledge Army Facility and Armory, causing it to spread into our community’s drinking water.”
Because of the secrecy of the proposed site, the group says they weren’t aware of the public comment period for the proposed groundwater permit for the MMIC until the day before the public comment period ended.
In the letter, they requested an extension of the public comment period, for several reasons including the notice to the public only being found on EGLE’s online calendar; the fact that comments can only be submitted through email or by mail; and not being able to find any documents detailing the scope of EGLE’s regulatory review, the terms of the proposed permit or any other information about the permit itself or the proposed basis for the permit. In other words, they say that EGLE is asking for public comment on an issue that they’ve provided “zero information” to the public about.
The group also demanded a public hearing (or multiple hearings as needed) on the issue of the proposed groundwater permit for MMIC so the community can assess “real” data. They also requested that EGLE issue a moratorium on any related groundwater withdrawals for this project for the next six months so that the public has time to obtain pertinent documents and information and provide feedback to EGLE.
STMS did not hear back from the state after sending the letter and now the law firm Olson, Bzdok & Howard is following up on the requests by sending a letter to EGLE on behalf of a new organization. The law firm is representing a group called “Save Rural America” (SRA) which was previously called “Stop the Mega Site.” The new organization is in the process of incorporating a non-profit corporation in the state and will be able to fundraise to help with the costs of opposition to the Mega Site.
SRA says in the letter that they are alarmed about the “significant quantity of groundwater that will be required for MMIC’s operations as well as the potential for the local community to be exposed to PFAS contamination from the neighboring Grand Ledge Army Facility and Armory through the MMIC’s extensive groundwater pumping, which may exacerbate the current contamination plume. (The Grand Ledge site is currently being monitored by EGLE’s Michigan PFAS Action Response Team).”
The law firm requests, on behalf of SRA, that EGLE promptly responds to the requests made in the earlier letter given the “public interests at stake and a lack of a substantive opportunity thus far for the public to engage with EGLE about MMIC’s proposed groundwater permit.”
The significant quantity of groundwater required for a chip plant is staggering. According to the American Bar Association, during the manufacturing process “chips must be repeatedly rinsed with ultra-pure water (UPW); one chip might require as much as 2,2200 gallons of UPW. It takes 1.4 to 1.6 gallons of municipal water to produce one gallon of UPW, so the rinsing process can require as many as 3,520 gallons of tap water.” Large quantities of water are also needed for a cooling process. This all adds up to over 11 million gallons per day coming out of the ground for the Mega Site, potentially drawing PFAS into community drinking water supplies.
In addition to needing a lot of water, the energy demands for semiconductor manufacturing is also staggering. The ABA reports on a 2016 study that said chip plants require as much as 2,400 megawatts each day – as much as 50,000 homes – and more than many other industrial uses.
Michigan News Source reached out to EGLE and MEDC about the water and energy needs for a proposed chip plant as well as PFAS concerns and they did not respond to our request for comment.
That leaves us in the dark about the future water and energy needs of a semiconductor manufacturing plant at the Mega Site location and whether the county and township would be able to provide what is needed – and if doing so would cause environmental damage to the area and the drinking water.
Without EGLE providing any documents or information to the public about it, the answers to those questions will continue to remain a mystery.