Employees Illegally Dumped Pesticides and Hazardous Chemicals
May 3, 2010 (San Diego) -- San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis (photo, left), California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and 18 other District Attorneys throughout the state announced today that a $27.6 million settlement has been reached with Wal-Mart for violations of environmental laws and regulations. It is one of the largest environmental settlements of this type brought by a prosecuting agency in U.S. history.
“This should serve as a warning to all companies doing business in the state and in San Diego County that they will not be allowed to flaunt environmental laws in place to keep our communities clean and safe—no matter how large or small the corporation,” said Dumanis.
The settlement was signed today by San Diego Superior Court Judge Linda B. Quinn. In it, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $20 million in penalties to the 20 prosecutors and 32 environmental health agencies throughout California involved in the investigation; more than $1.6 million in costs for the investigation; and $3 million for Supplemental Environmental Projects benefiting prosecutors, investigators and regulators. Walmart also agreed to spend at least an additional $3 million toward keeping its stores in compliance with environmental laws and regulations.
The San Diego District Attorney’s Office and Attorney General’s Office filed a civil complaint on April 2, 2010, alleging that each of the 236 Wal-Mart stores, Sam’s Club stores, distribution centers and storage facilities in California were in violation of environmental laws and regulations. Wal-Mart employees and management were improperly storing, handling, transporting and dumping hazardous waste, including pesticides, chemicals, paint, aerosols, acid, fertilizer and motor oil.
“Safety should always be the No. 1 priority for the hundreds of thousands of people who travel California’s freeways every day,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said. “This settlement ensures that Walmart obeys the laws when shipping potentially hazardous materials on our streets and highways.”
Federal, state and local investigators spent thousands of hours documenting the violations. The investigation began after an off-duty regulator from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health noticed a Wal-Mart employee dumping bleach down a sink drain in April 2005. The regulator returned to the San Diego County store while on duty and asked about hazardous waste disposal policies. That’s when it was discovered that Wal-Mart was in violation.
Another example of a violation involved a Wal-Mart Store in Solano County where a child was found playing in a mound of fertilizer left near its garden department. The yellowish-colored powder contained ammonium sulfate, a chemical compound used in fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides which causes irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.