Trump and Walker OK Plant Pumping Clean Lake Michigan Water and Then Dumping Polluted Water Back
Get paid to pollute!
That’s the unspoken new policy of the Trump administration and its ally in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker. Their administrations are giving environmental protection waivers together with billions of dollars in subsidies to Foxconn, the giant Taiwan manufacturer best known for assembling iPhones.
Foxconn will be allowed to suck up to 7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan and then dump that water, which may be laced with pollutants from making liquid crystal display panels, back into the lake.
Local officials are aghast. They understand the dangers to health and tourism if America goes back to the pre-Nixon policies of treating the Great Lakes as an industrial toxic waste pond.
Foxconn has not revealed what toxic metals and chemicals will be used but said it plans to distill the water it uses to decrease water use and recycle water.
The Trump administration helped arrange a $10 billion deal for Foxconn, which has started construction in Mount Pleasant, a Racine County village of about 26,000 people. If fully built out the industrial complex would be three times the size of the Pentagon.
Gov. Walker exempted the Foxconn factory from any major environmental review. Last-minute changes by Trump political appointees at the EPA could keep Foxconn from making expensive improvements to reduce smog.
“We can protect our natural resources and support job creation at the same time,” said Ann Hasenberg, a Walker spokeswoman.
These pro-pollution favors are being challenged in court by Lisa Madigan, the Illinois attorney general.
Walker met with billionaire Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, in April 2017 in the office of Trump’s chief of staff. That meeting came just days after a White House aide called an executive at a Wisconsin economic development organization. The meeting between the two has been portrayed as part of the romance between Foxconn and Wisconsin that the company and the state claim will bring up to 13,000 jobs to Wisconsin. Notice that “up to.”
But the legalese and fine print underlying the deal suggest that Gou was more interested in how best to exploit our nation’s Great Lakes, home to a fifth of the world’s surface fresh water. Mount Pleasant is a “straddling community” only partly in the Great Lakes basin. Such communities can tap water from the Great Lakes provided the water is used “solely for public water supply purposes.”
Wisconsin, known under Walker for rarely enforcing its own standards for industrial water pollution, approved using water from Lake Michigan for the 22-million-square-foot industrial complex’s water needs.
Local officials understand the dangers if America goes back to treating the Great Lakes as an industrial toxic waste pond.
An LCD plant coats glass sheets with dozens of layers of thin material that conduct electricity. Washing the glass as each layer is applied uses millions of gallons of water.
Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources brought in a manager to oversee quick environmental permitting for Foxconn.
“We can get these jobs going on the ground and still have the environmental protection – and I will even say enhancement – as a result of this project,” Cathy Stepp, then the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said in 2017.
Stepp, who campaigned for Trump, later joined the EPA and is now a regional administrator in the Midwest for the EPA where her duties will include overseeing some of the chemicals used at Foxconn. The former deputy secretary at the Wisconsin DNR, Kurt Thiede, is now Stepp’s chief of staff.
Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers said it had no jurisdiction over wetlands that would be filled. Wisconsin gave up state authority over wetlands on the Foxconn property.
“Right now, we don’t have any authority on the site,” said Todd Vesperman, a Corps section chief.