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Walmart to Pay $81.6 million for Dumping Toxic Waste
Walmart pled guilty on Tuesday to improperly dumping hazardous products from its stores in Missouri and California. The chain was sentenced to pay an $81.6 million fine.
In reporting by The Associated Press, Walmart was found guilty of illegally disposing of toxic waste, in violation of the Clean Water Act. Employees at the chain’s California and Missouri stores discarded damaged hazardous products like fertilizer and pesticides by dumping them into trash cans or sewers. While the violation appears to have been isolated to its stores in California and Missouri, the punishment was steep: the retail chain was ordered to pay an $81.6 million fine. Prosecutors accused the company of failing to train employees on proper handling and disposal of hazardous products. The case is the second of its kind: in 2010, Walmart paid $27.6 million after similar issues occured in its California stores.
It was clear that the prosecutors intended to make an example of the company, perhaps especially because of the market clout of the mega-retail chain. In a statement, assistant attorney general Ignacia S. Moreno noted, “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 of companies.”
For its part, Walmart claims it has already initiated a complete overhaul of its internal procedures, and that employees are now being trained on proper clean-up, handling, and disposal of hazardous products that are damaged and need to be discarded.
Some of the $81.6 million in fines will go directly to the counties that were impacted by Walmart’s actions. Assistant Attorney General Moreno says that the fines will be used, at least in part, to “fund important environmental projects in the communities impacted by the violations and help prevent future harm to the environment.”
The verdict this week has been nearly 8 years in the making. The allegations of illegal dumping came to light after a San Diego health inspector saw a Walmart worker tossing bleach down a sink. In another disturbing incident, authorities found a child playing in a pile of fertilizer outside of a Solano County Walmart.Walmart to Pay $81.6 million for Dumping Toxic Waste by Andrew Ostler