As Trump touts Foxconn plant, concerns about water use linger

Jun 28, 2018

President Trump traveled to Wisconsin today for the ground-breaking of a sprawling high-tech factory where Foxconn will make LCD panels.

Wisconsin used huge incentives to attract the Taiwan company's plant, which is expected to employ some 13,000 workers.  

But the plant also has sparked debate because it will use millions of gallons of water each day from Lake Michigan.

A number of environmental groups, including Milwaukee Riverkeeper and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, have challenged a state agency's decision to allow Foxconn to use that water.

As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported, the groups said the decision violated requirements of the Great Lakes Compact. That agreement aims to safeguard the Great Lakes by limiting how much water can be moved outside the basin.

Wisconsin's approval is needed because part of the plant would lie outside the Great Lakes basin.

Earlier this year, Jenny Trick, a local economic development official, told Great Lakes Today that she was  confident drinking water and wastewater treatment plants would protect Lake Michigan.

But critics such as Jodi Habush Sinykin of Midwest Environmental Advocates said Lake Michigan's water shouldn't be diverted for the primary benefit of a single company. She said the compact limits withdrawals to public purposes, largely residential.

For more on the issue, here's an Interlochen Public Radio interview with Peter Annin, author of "The Great Lakes Water Wars." He's also co-director of the Northland College Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation in Wisconsin.