Foxconn Breaks Ground Amid Water Management Criticism

Environmentalists question Foxconn’s water consumption and wastewater management

Foxconn faces controversy over water use

On June 28, Foxconn Technology Group, a consumer electronic provider, broke ground on a manufacturing facility in Mount Pleasant, Wisc., expected to provide up to 13,000 jobs. While the Taiwan-based company has received criticism for their environmental practices abroad, Foxconn is working to hold their new facility to higher environmental standards by using a zero-liquid discharge system and implementing storm water and erosion control best management practices.

The Wisconsin Assembly voted to approve a $3 billion economic incentive package to persuade the technology tycoon to come to Wisconsin, which included certain environmental exemptions under fire. According to the Journal Sentinel, the exceptions could mean the destruction of some state-regulated wetlands and changing the course of a stream without obtaining a state permit. Additionally, the company will be exempt from an environmental impact statement. Abroad, the company received a state audit in 2016 for its wastewater management program and allegations on its Shanghai, China, factory for dumping heavy metals into canals. 

Further controversy arose from Foxconn’s plans to divert 5.8 million gal of water a day from Lake Michigan for its operations, according to Michigan Public Radio. Environmentalists have called this a violation of the Great Lakes Compact because the compact generally refers to municipal use, not water consumption by a private user. In response, Foxconn announced plans to build a zero-liquid discharge system which would take their water consumption down to 2.5 million gal per day.

“One of the reasons we chose to locate in Wisconsin is the state’s pristine environment, and we take our responsibility to preserve it seriously,” said Dr. Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou. “This system will be state-of-the-art technology to reduce the water our facility needs to operate by millions of gallons per day.” 

The system is already successfully being used at Foxconn’s manufacturing plant in Sakai, Japan, and recycles wastewater for further use while reducing pollutant discharges. It will be installed when the Mount Pleasant facility is complete and operational, as reported by the Milwaukee Business Journal.

Foxconn has awarded contracts totaling $100 million to handle work such as erosion control, mass excavation and storm water management at the construction site. The company has selected 27 Wisconsin subcontractors and two from Illinois.

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