Questions swirl over Foxconn's Wisconsin plant

Jan 31, 2018

Foxconn's plans for an LCD display factory near the shore of Lake Michigan are sparking lots of questions about water use and environmental protections.

The Taiwanese company says it could invest up to $10 billion in the Wisconsin factory and employ up to 13,000 people. State officials tout the project as an economic development coup.

​But environmentalists worry about plans for drawing water from Lake Michigan.

Racine, which supplies the area, wants to take 7 million gallons a day from the lake for the factory; about 40 percent would not be returned to the lake.

Cheryl Nenn of Milwaukee Riverkeeper is concerned that so much water would be consumed in the manufacturing process.

"And so, from that perspective, we feel this application deserves a lot of scrutiny," she told Wisconsin Public Radio. Referring to an agreement that governs water use in the lakes, she added, "The whole point ... is to essentially keep Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes."

Who uses the Great Lakes water?

Across the entire Great Lakes basin, about 42 million gallons were withdrawn daily in 2016, and two-thirds went to thermo-electric power plants. About 5 percent of total withdrawals (more than 2 million gallons per day) was consumed or otherwise lost to the basin.

Wisconsin expects to complete its review of Racine's request within 90 days. A public hearing is scheduled March 7 in Sturtevant, and public comments must be submitted by March 21, the Department of Natural Resources says.

Meanwhile, environmentalists are waiting for more details about Foxconn's plant, including plans for treating wastes that could includes zinc, cadmium, copper and benzene.