Retailer to Pay $1 Million Fine, Establish Environmental Management Plan
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today reached an environmental agreement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to resolve claims the retailer violated the Clean Water Act at 17 locations in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Massachusetts. This is the first federal enforcement action against a company for multi-state violations of the Act's storm water provisions.
The settlement commits Wal-Mart to establish a $4.5 million environmental management plan, to improve the retailer's compliance with environmental laws at each of its construction sites and minimize the impact of its building on streams and watersheds. The settlement also compels the company to pay a $1 million civil penalty.
"We must be vigilant in protecting our drinking water. We must be equally protective of streams and lakes enjoyed by American families. Those responsible for construction sites must control hazardous pollutants from flowing into drinking water sources and waterways," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
The United States alleges that Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart and 10 of its contractors failed to comply with storm water regulations and illegally discharged pollution from several construction sites. The Clean Water Act requires the owners and operators of large construction sites to have permits, which generally require site operators to create and carry out pollution prevention plans to minimize the discharge of pollutants into storm water runoff.
"We expect the retail and construction industries to comply with federal clean water requirements, " said John Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Environment Division. "With this settlement, we are taking an important step to protect streams and lakes across the country."
In its 1998 National Water Quality Inventory to Congress, EPA identifies urban runoff and storm sewers as leading causes of impaired water quality in the United States. Storm water runoff from construction sites can cause silt and sediments to build up in lakes and streams and kill aquatic life. Runoff also can transport pollutants like oil and pesticides into nearby storm drains, into sewer systems, and ultimately into streams and waterways. These discharges may drastically affect the health and quality of a waterway, and untreated storm water runoff may contaminate drinking water and pollute recreational waters.
The environmental management plan that Wal-Mart will establish aims to avert construction-related pollution. Wal-Mart will require its contractors to certify that all appropriate storm water control measures are in place before construction begins at new stores. The plan also requires Wal-Mart to improve its oversight of environmental compliance at its construction sites, conduct sampling at the sites to monitor the level of pollutants in storm water, and report these findings to the EPA.
The settlement, filed today in federal court in Fayetteville, Ark., will undergo a 30-day period of public comment.
Further information is available in the attached fact sheet and also at: http://www.epa.gov/ow/305b/