Company spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said that Walmart entered the guilty plea in San Francisco’s federal court to misdemeanor counts of negligently dumping hazardous pollutants from its stores into sanitation drains across the state,
After the company pled guilty they will have to pay the $81 million fine that will also cover damage charges in Missouri.
The announcement on Tuesday of the plea and the fine amounts ended an almost decade long investigation that involved more than 32 environmental groups and more than 20 prosecutors.
The Walmart company had agreed to pay $27.6 million in 2010 to settle other similar allegations made by authority’s in 2010. Those allegations forced the company to restructure their hazardous waste disposal program across the country.
The California state investigation came about eight years ago when a San Diego sanitation department employee saw a Walmart worker pouring bleach down a drain.
Officials also cited another instance in Solano County, California where a local boy was found to be playing in a mound of fertiliser that was near a Walmart garden section. The fertiliser was a yellow coloured powder that contains Ammonium Sulfate, a chemical compound that should not come into contact with human skin or eyes and is not to be breathed in as it is an irritant.
Walmart Company spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said, “We have fixed the problem. We are obviously happy that this is the final resolution.”
Court documents show that the illegal dumping occurred in 16 different Californian counties between 2003 and 2005. Federal prosecutors said that the Walmart company had not trained their employees on the proper way to handle and to dispose of their hazardous materials at the company’s stores.
Prosecutors said that as a result, the waste was just thrown into local trash bins or emptied down drains which led into the local sewer systems. The waste had also been taken improperly to one of several product return centers throughout the United Sates without the proper legal and safety documentation.
Walmart Spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said that employees are now better trained on how clean up, transport and dispose of dangerous hazardous products, such as fertiliser, that are spilled in the store or that have had their packages damaged in transit.
Walmart employees now have scanners that can tell them if a package that is damaged actually contains dangerous or hazardous material and that they are also trained on how to handle it, Buchanan said. Walmart has come under fire in other areas in their relationships with company employees, it now appears that at least the worker’s safety has been improved by this legal action.
Now that Walmart have been ordered to pay the $81 Million fine as a part of their pleading guilty to the inappropriate disposal of hazardous waste in California, and one count of the same misdemeanour in Missouri; the company have obviously taken steps to ensure both their employees’ and the public’s safety have been met. They also are now meeting the legal requirements for proper disposal as set out by both local and federal law.
By Michael Smith