Huge Wal-Mart CWA Settlement Announced

"As one of the largest retailers in the United States, Wal-Mart is responsible not only for the stock on its shelves, but also for the significant amount of hazardous materials that result from damaged products returned by customers," said Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California.

EPA announced that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has pleaded guilty today in Clean Water Act cases filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco after illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its retail stores nationwide. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company also pleaded guilty May 28 in Kansas City, Mo., to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers at its stores across the country.

These three criminal cases brought by the Justice Department and a related civil case filed by EPA mean Wal-Mart will pay approximately $81.6 million for its conduct. Coupled with previous actions brought by the states of California and Missouri for the same conduct, Wal-Mart will pay a combined total of more than $110 million to resolve cases alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws.

"According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, from a date unknown until January 2006, Wal-Mart did not have a program in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level. As a result, hazardous wastes were either discarded improperly at the store level -- including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system –--or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product return centers located throughout the United States," EPA's news release stated.

"By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Today, Wal-Mart acknowledged responsibility for violations of federal laws and will pay significant fines and penalties, which will, in part, fund important environmental projects in the communities impacted by the violations and help prevent future harm to the environment."

"As one of the largest retailers in the United States, Wal-Mart is responsible not only for the stock on its shelves, but also for the significant amount of hazardous materials that result from damaged products returned by customers," said Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. "The crimes in these cases stem from Wal-Mart's failure to comply with the regulations designed to ensure the proper handling, storage, and disposal of those hazardous materials and waste. With its guilty plea today, Wal-Mart is in a position to be an industry leader by ensuring that not only Wal-Mart, but all retail stores, properly handle their waste."

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