Walmart Pleads Guilty to Dumping Hazardous Waste

walmart cardboard recycling hazardous waste
Damian Dovarganes/APRecycled cardboard boxes are ready for transport outside a Walmart store in Duarte, Calif., on Tuesday, the same day the company pleaded guilty to charges it dumped hazardous waste.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ending an environmental investigation that lasted nearly a decade, Walmart has pleaded guilty to improperly disposing of pesticides, fertilizer and other hazardous products and will pay a fine of $81.6 million.

Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT) entered the guilty plea in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday to misdemeanor counts of violating the Clean Water Act and a law regulating pesticides.

The charges came from Walmart's disposal of hazardous products that had been pulled from store shelves in California and Missouri because of problems like damaged packaging.

In Kansas City, Mo., the company pleaded guilty to improperly handling pesticides.

The plea agreements brought a close to an investigation that lasted eight years, involved more than 20 prosecutors and 32 environmental groups and cost Walmart a total of $110 million.

Court documents show illegal dumping occurred in 16 California counties from Del Norte to Orange between 2003 and 2005. Federal prosecutors said the company didn't train its employees on how to handle and dispose hazardous materials at its stores.

The result, prosecutors say, was that waste was tossed into trash bins or poured into sewer systems. The waste also was improperly taken to one of several product return centers throughout the U.S. without proper safety documentation, authorities said.

In 2010, the company agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle similar allegations made by California authorities that led to the overhaul of its hazardous waste compliance program nationwide.

"By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Walmart 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 Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department.

Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the company has fixed the problem and is "obviously happy that this is the final resolution."

She said employees are better trained on how to clean up, transport and dispose of dangerous products such as fertilizer that are spilled in a store or have packages damaged.

Workers are armed with scanners that tell them whether a damaged package is considered to contain a hazardous material, she said.

Moreno said the fines against Wall-Mart "will, in part, fund important environmental projects in the communities impacted by the violations and help prevent future harm to the environment."

The state investigation began when a San Diego County health department employee saw a worker pouring bleach down a drain.

In another instance, officials said a Solano County boy was found playing in a mound of fertilizer near a Walmart garden section. The yellow-tinted powder contained ammonium sulfate, a chemical compound that causes irritation to skin, eyes and the respiratory tract.

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Maybe the Walton's need to check their family tree?

May 29 2013 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You realize when the landscapers spread top soil and fertilizer the wind and rain blow the topsoil and fertilizer into the parking lot into the storm drains in the lot. The water from the drain helps to wash the stuff into the drain along with anything from the dumpsters etc.

May 29 2013 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Richard de stokes what ever my family Wickham are one and the same!

May 29 2013 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment

Don't forget the Knights Templer like John de stokes who was detained with the other Templars because a king said they were denying the existence of Christ.

May 29 2013 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Robert de Stokes, Roger de Stokes, Robert de Wyekham, Richard de Stokes, Thomas de Swalciffe aand many others after the Norman Conquest were my family tree.

May 29 2013 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Did I mention my people back in England hundreds of years ago were Baron of Walton?

May 29 2013 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You haven't seen nothing yet

May 29 2013 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Save 200 million by spending 81, ah, the way of business.

May 29 2013 at 10:42 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Didn't train their employees properly??? What a bunch of BS. The bottom line for Wallyworld is the almighty dollar. Just throw the chemicals into the everyday trash is the most cost effective way to get rid of it. The hell with the invironment, full dump ahead! Wallyworld doesn't care about their employees, or the invironment, it's the bottom line that counts with them. Just another reason why I refuse to set foot inside one of their stores (some of us have a conscience) Wanting everything "cheap" will be the downfall of us yet.

May 29 2013 at 10:20 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to liontwin33's comment

Even when you do as your told to do you still get terminated. What you know could get you terminated it's a lose lose situation.

May 29 2013 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

An 81 million dollar fine is nothing to Walmart. As usual, noone goes to jail. Pay a small fine as a cost of doing business and go on polluting. Pathethic.

May 29 2013 at 9:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They should make the fine 300 million dollars. Walmart won't learn a lesson from a mere 81 million.

May 29 2013 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply