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Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. will pay $27.6 million to settle a case that alleged the mega-retailer improperly handled and dumped hazardous waste, including pesticide, fertilizer, paint and aerosols, at the 236 stores and distribution centers across the state of California. About $21 million of the settlement will go to civil penalties and investigative costs, and the company will fund $6 million in supplemental environmental projects. According to Walmart, the settlement won’t affect its results of operations for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011.
The settlement brings to a close a five-year investigation by federal, state and local authorities, as well as over 30 environmental groups.
“Environmental sustainability is a priority at Walmart, and we take our compliance responsibilities very seriously,” noted Phyllis Harris, VP, environmental compliance at Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. “It’s important to note that these incidents happened at least four years ago. Since then, we have worked closely with the State of California on a comprehensive hazardous waste plan that includes improved training programs, policies and procedures. This robust environmental compliance initiative is focused on how to safely handle products like these and has been implemented in all of our stores and clubs.”
Among the compliance measures adopted by Walmart, according to Harris, are the hiring of more environmental compliance staff; the development and implementation of almost 50 new environmental compliance standard operating procedures for locations; the introduction of a hazardous waste management system enabling associates to properly dispose of waste; and enhanced environmental compliance training to all store and club associates.
“We’re confident that our current procedures represent a model for hazardous waste management in retail,” said Harris. “We’re a better company today as a result of these programs, and we’ll continue to look for opportunities to make our environmental compliance programs even stronger in the future.”
Harris noted that under California law, businesses must label, store and ship products such as damaged nail polish bottles or hairspray cans and leaking household cleaners, using a licensed hauler and send them to a facility licensed to treat and dispose of hazardous waste.