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Wal-Mart Pleads Guilty to Dangerous Dumping, is Fined $81.6 Million

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Retail giant Wal-Mart pled guilty in federal court this week to improperly disposing of hazardous materials, and was sentenced to pay $81.6 million in fines. The verdict marked the end of an almost decade-long investigation, which has cost Wal-Mart a total of $110 million.

According to prosecutors, when Wal-Mart employees in California and Missouri pulled pulled defective fertilizers or pesticides from shelves–due to damaged packaging or unsellable condition–prior to 2004, these products were discarded in “nearby trash cans or municipal Dumpsters,” or by pouring liquids down maintenance drains, “which connected to the local sewer system of the local, publicly-owned treatment plan.”

Prosecutors also say say that prior to 2006, some defective products were simply shipped to return centers, where they were repackaged and resold. Between 2003 and 2005, the charges alleged, illegal dumping occurred in 16 California counties, and employees weren’t properly trained to handle disposal of hazardous waste.

Wal-Mart plead guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act, a law regulating pesticides, and to charges from the Environmental Protection Agency, agreeing to pay the $81.6 million.

“Wal-Mart 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.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company is “obviously happy that this is the final resolution.” She added that employees are now given scanners that alert them to hazardous materials, and are better trained to properly dispose of them.

In a statement, Wal-Mart said that “No specific environmental impact has been alleged,” and that the company’s financial position won’t be impacted by the decision.


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