Wal-Mart Pleads Guilty To Dumping Toxic Waste, Pays $82 Million Fine

Image via Flickr/ Walmart Corporate

Just in case you needed another reason to hate Wal-Mart, the company just pled guilty to charges it once made a practice of dumping hazardous waste such as bleach and fertilizer. In a statement, the US Department of Justice confirmed federal prosecutors in California filed cases claiming Wal-Mart violated the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its US stores. Wal-Mart pled guilty to six of those counts, as well as a charge in Kansas City, Mo. that the retail giant violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act by improperly handling pesticides returned by customers. Wal-Mart is set to pay almost $82 million in fines.

This case is as big as Wal-Mart is,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Johns, chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section in Los Angeles, told USA Today. “This conduct is alleged to have taken place at every single Wal-Mart in the country.

Wal-Mart now says the plea agreements with the US Attorney’s Offices in the Northern and Central Districts of California, as well as the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri put to rest to compliance issues that took place in the past. But does it? Or is this just the most recent occurrence in which Wal-Mart got caught?

The chain already agreed to pay $27.6 million to California in 2010 to settle a related lawsuit, as well as $1.25 million to Missouri in 2012. The suits charged that Wal-Mart used to throw lawn products, such as pesticides and fertilizer, in the trash instead of a certified hauler. According to court filings, in 2002 investigators—who were called after a child was seen playing with a pile of “colored yellow powder” near a store’s garden department—saw “piles of multicolored unknown fertilizer type substances and torn sacks of ammonium sulfate” at Wal-Marts in California. Some stores were even found to have poured hazardous liquid into local sewer systems.

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 Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Per the California plea agreement, Wal-Mart must now pay $40 million in criminal fines and $20 million to fund community service projects. It’s retribution also includes $11 million in criminal fines and $3 million to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as deemed by the Missouri plea agreement.

We prosecute mom-and-pop stores for this type of conduct,” Johns said. “If there’s anyone who has the resources to comply with the law, it’s Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has also signed an administrative resolution with the Environmental Protection Agency, so hopefully its days of dumping hazardous waste are over. But with a corporation of its size—that just continues to grow no matter what indiscretions are exposed—who ever really knows?