Wal-Mart has plead guilty and admitted to dumping hazardous waste in numerous locations throughout the US. The settlement included an agreement to pay $81 million in damages.
The criminal lawsuits, filed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Kansas City, Missouri, claim that Wal-Mart employees disposed of toxic waste illegally. The dumping reportedly included “every single Wal-Mart in the country.”
As employees never received proper training, they reportedly disposed of the hazardous materials improperly. Waste was either placed into trash bins, poured into public sewers, or transported elsewhere, without proper containment or documentation.
As reported by USA Today, Wal-Mart retail stores continued to improperly dispose of toxic waste until 2006. Between 2006 and 2008 Wal-Mart admitted improper transport of hazardous materials to a recycling center in Missouri.
Assistant attorney general Ignacia Moreno, with The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, explains why this is unacceptable:
“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.”
Wal-Mart plead guilty to the criminal charges, including violation of the Clean Water Act. As reported by KTVU News, the charges specified 16 counties in California alone, where Wal-Mart improperly disposed of toxic waste.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan explains that Wal-Mart has taken steps to assure the mistakes will not continue. All previous and newly hired employees are trained in the proper handling and disposal of hazardous waste.
Buchanan points out that Wal-Mart hired a team, specifically dedicated to environmental compliance. The team of around 50 employees will oversee future training and monitor compliance.
The investigation into the allegations began nearly 10 years ago when an employee was observed pouring bleach down the drain in a retail store.
Wal-Mart has plead guilty, bringing an end to the extensive investigation and prosecution. The fines are hefty, but Wal-Mart spokeswoman Buchanan states that they are happy it is over and ready to move forward.
[Image via Wikimedia]