Walmart has pleaded guilty to violating environmental protection laws, including the Clean Water Act, in three separate cases this week. The world's largest retailer is now set to pay more than $110 million in fines.
Walmart admitted to six misdemeanor counts of violating the Clean Water Act in two cases filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company admitted to illegally disposing of hazardous waste materials at its retail stores.
In a third case out of Missouri, Walmart also pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by improperly handling pesticides that had been returned to its stores by customers.
Walmart's Improper Handling of Waste
Walmart's fines now total more than $110 million. This includes $40 million in community service payments and fines in California, $14 million in community service payments and fines in Missouri, and a $7.6 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Court documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco show that the improper dumping happened in 16 California counties between 2003 and 2005, the Associated Press reports. The waste was illegally dumped into municipal trash bins, and liquids were improperly poured into local sewer systems. Federal law considers the discarded material to be hazardous waste.
Those same documents show that from an unknown date up until the beginning of 2006, Walmart did not have any program to train its employees on how to properly dispose of hazardous waste materials and to teach them disposal practices at the store level, according to the DOJ.
Sending a 'Message'
The plea agreement filed in Kansas City states that between the summer of 2006 to early 2008, Walmart employees did not properly oversee the pesticides sent to return centers. Those pesticides were mixed together with regulated pesticides and sold without the required information on the labels. This is a violation of FIFRA.
"Truckloads of hazardous products, including more than 2 million pounds of pesticides, were improperly handled under [Walmart]'s contract," the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri said in a statement.
Walmart's criminal fine "should send a message to companies of all sizes that they will be held accountable to follow federal environmental laws," the federal prosecutor continued. Walmart's community service payment will be used to fund environmental projects in Missouri "to help prevent such abuses in the future."
- Wal-Mart pleads guilty in California, Missouri to environmental crimes committed at its stores (The Sacramento Bee)
- Clean Water Act (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
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- Wal-Mart Bleach Fight Sends 19 to Hospital (FindLaw's Blotter)