Technology manufacturer Foxconn has been given permission to pollute Lake Michigan and the surrounding area with help from EPA pollution waivers. The Trump administration and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have provided the company with a plan that will directly affect residents surrounding the plant and beyond.
The plan will allow Foxconn to grab 7 million gallons of water every day from Lake Michigan before dumping much of that water back into the water and air in the community. The company, in its request to pump the water out of Lake Michigan, asked “to tap as much as 7 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan…just slightly less than the daily amount of lake water Milwaukee will ship to the City of Waukesha,” according to Lee Bergquist of USA Today. “Of that total 39 percent would be lost, mostly through evaporation, and 4.3 million gallons would be returned to the lake via the City of Racine’s water system,” Bergquist adds. It’s important to note that it’s still unclear what effect the company’s waste byproduct could have on surrounding waterways following the company’s cleanup processes which have a poor track record worldwide.
Residents can likely expect increased pollution not only in their water but also the local air supply as the company manufactures liquid crystal display panels and other products at the plant.
Air pollution certainly faces an uphill battle. The Chicago Tribune reported in May 2018 that following the announcement of the Foxconn plant, The Trump administration and Walker’s administration “completely exempted Racine County from federal smog standards and scaled back the EPA staff recommendations for most other parts of Wisconsin.”
The company has assured residents that it will distill the water to decrease over consumption but it’s doing little to assail concerns from residents and some lawmakers about pollution that will most definitely find its way into the local environment.
In August 2013, The Register noted that the manufacturer of iPhone and other devices came under fire over “allegations that the companies’ factories are using nearby rivers as dumping grounds for huge amounts of toxic heavy metals.” Rather than denying the charges fully, Foxconn told Bloomberg that its “Kushun factory follows all applicable environmental regulations.” Sadly, Trump and Walker have made it easy for FoxConn to avoid environmental concerns by massively scaling back their EPA regulatory requirements.
Urban Milwaukee Journalist Bruce Murphy noted in April 2018 that the environmental impact on Milwaukee shouldn’t be downplayed. “The Taiwanese company Foxconn’s record in China was abysmal. At its plant in Chengdu, China, which made iPads for Apple, audits by Apple found improper disposal of hazardous waste and workers injured by toxic chemical exposures,” Murphy writes.
The impact in Milwaukee is further complicated by the rules implemented for the plant. Murphy writes:
“In Wisconsin, the contract Walker and Republicans awarded Foxconn exempted it from the usual environmental rules, allowing it to discharge materials into wetlands and reroute streams during construction and operation. And Act 56, the law providing the massive funding for Foxconn, also exempted the company from doing an Environmental Impact Statement.”
“There is no holistic evaluation of the combined impacts on the air and water,” Paul Mathewson, Staff Scientist with the non-profit Clean Wisconsin, tells Urban Milwaukee. “For example, there are all these road projects going on to accommodate all this extra traffic associated with the project, but we have not seen any evaluation of these emissions (from this) combined with the emissions from the facility itself.”
Donald Trump has heralded the Foxconn deal after the U.S. government provided $10 billion in tax incentives so the company would start building its new plant in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin.
It was Governor Walker who provided the exemption from major environmental review over fear that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would force expensive improvements to be made in an attempt to reduce smog in the area.
DC Reporter spoke to Ann Hasenberg, a Walker spokeswoman, who said his administration “can protect our natural resources and support job creation at the same time.’ This plan, however, seems to point in the opposite direction.
Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Attorney General, is already challenging the waivers in court, noting that it will affect residents outside of Wisconsin.