A recent ‘The New York Times’ article entitled “Wal-Mart Is Fined $82 Million Over Mishandling of Hazardous Wastes” reported that Wal-Mart Stores pleaded guilty Tuesday to improperly dumping hazardous waste in California and Missouri and agreed to pay almost $82 million.
The retailer was charged with six counts of violating the Clean Water Act in California and one count of violating a federal law related to pesticide disposal in Missouri.
Since 2003, Wal-Mart employees tossed products like bleach, fertilizer, hairspray, nail polish and deodorant into trash or the local sewer system.
André Birotte Jr., the United States attorney for the Central District of California, said “Retailers like Wal-Mart that generate hazardous waste have a duty to legally and safely dispose of that hazardous waste, and dumping it down the sink was neither legal nor safe.”
In Missouri, the company was delivering damaged items that its customers had returned, including pesticides, to a facility where the items were processed for sale without any permission.
The Justice department said in a statement “Regulated pesticides were mixed together and offered for sale to customers without the reguired registration, ingredients, or use information.”
Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said “Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies.”
After the improper dumping was revealed, in 2006 the company put into place a program telling employees how to handle the waste and created a compliance office. Now, an employee must put returned or damaged items that are classified as hazardous into a special chemical bag. The employee must then label the bag’s contents, put the bag in a bucket liner, seal the liner, and place the liner into a color-coded bucket – red for nail polish, blue for aerosols. A hazardous-waste hauler takes the bucket from the store to a treatment center, along with documentation.
Wal-Mart said it was “pleased” to have resolved the issue.
“We have fixed the problem,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said. “We are obviously happy that this is the final resolution.”