Wal-Mart has admitted to violating criminal and civil laws meant to protect water quality and ensure proper handling of hazardous wastes and pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
The retailer pleaded guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its retail stores nationwide. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco brought the cases; the criminal cases are a result of investigations conducted by the FBI and the EPA in collaboration with the California Department of Substance and Toxics Control and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Wal-Mart also pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Missouri to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides returned by customers nationwide. Wal-Mart also agreed to pay a $7.628 million civil penalty to resolve civil violations of FIFRA and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Three criminal cases were brought by the Justice Department and the EPA filed a civil case; Wal-Mart will pay about $81.6 million for its unlawful conduct. Due to prior actions brought by 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.
“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 the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“Federal laws that address the proper handling, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes exist to safeguard our environment and protect the public from harm,” said André Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. “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. The case against Wal-Mart is designed to ensure compliance with our nation’s environmental laws now and in the future.”
“Truckloads of hazardous products, including more than 2 million pounds of pesticides, were improperly handled under Wal-Mart’s contract. Today’s criminal fine should send a message to companies of all sizes that they will be held accountable to follow federal environmental laws, said Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Wal-Mart owns more than 4,000 stores nationwide that sell thousands of products, which are flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic, or otherwise hazardous under federal law. The products that contain hazardous materials include pesticides, solvents, detergents, paints, aerosols, and cleaners. These products are considered hazardous waste under federal law once they are discarded.