Wal-Mart to pay fine

May 13, 2004
Journal Inquirer

By Curt Anderson
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, will pay a $3.1 million fine to settle a Clean Water Act violation stemming from excessive storm water runoff from its construction sites, federal officials said Wednesday.

Wal-Mart also agreed in the settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department to improve runoff controls at the more than 200 sites each year where the company builds stores, including Sam’s Club outlets.

“Storm water requirements have been in place for a long time,” said Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for environment and national resources. “Developers like Wal-Mart must share responsibility with their construction contractors to ensure compliance.”

Wal-Mart spokesman Gus Whitcomb said the Bentonville, Ark.-based company will make changes at its construction sites to ensure environmental compliance.

“We also believe that this agreement sets a new industry standard for developers and their contractors, who also make daily decisions which impact compliance,” Whitcomb said.

Storm water runoff carries sediment and dirt into the nation’s waterways, killing fish, destroying habitat and blocking light that spurs growth of beneficial plant life. The runoff also can contain pesticides, chemicals, solvents and other toxic substances.

The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., cites Wal-Mart violations at 24 construction sites in nine states and alleges the company failed to get required permits, did not institute a runoff control plan and failed to install controls to prevent discharges.

Wal-Mart will comply with these requirements under the agreement and will improve training and inspections of its construction sites. The settlement also requires frequent reporting to the EPA.

In addition, Wal-Mart agreed to spend $250,000 to help protect sensitive wetlands or waterways in one state, not yet determined, among the nine involved in the settlement. The nine states are California, Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.