Waste Mishandling Costs Walmart Millions


Walmart recently reached a $27.6 million settlement with state and local authorities in California over improper handling and dumping of hazardous waste, including motor oil, at stores and facilities throughout the state.

On April 2, the state attorney general and 19 district attorneys offices in California filed a civil complaint alleging each of the 236 Walmart stores, Sams Club stores, distribution centers and storage facilities in California violated environmental law and regulations. According to the complaint, Walmart employees and management improperly stored, handled, transported and dumped hazardous waste, including motor oil, pesticides, chemicals, paint, aerosols, acid and fertilizer. The settlement was announced May 3.

According to a company statement last week, authorities said Walmart store and club associates improperly managed products considered hazardous waste under California law by discarding the products in the trash. The complaint brought against the company also found that Walmart associates sent damaged products and spilled materials to Walmarts return center using an unlicensed hauler.

Walmart Stores spokesman Greg Rossiter told Lube Report the complaint document didnt get into more details about how motor oil was improperly handled. We cant be more specific, he added.

Rossiter said new handling and disposal measures in place should remedy issues with handling of motor oil spills or damaged containers of motor oil. The standards we have in place now would apply whether it was motor oil that could be spilled in the Tire & Lube Express Center, or it was from a bottle that was on the shelves, Rossiter explained. The associates are taught to test to see what the substance is, and then depending on what it is, how to handle it, clean it up, and get it to the proper hazardous waste return center.

Phyllis Harris, vice president of environmental compliance for Walmart, stated that the 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.

Walmart said that of the $27 million-plus settlement, $21 million will go to civil penalties and investigative costs, and the company will fund $6 million in supplemental environmental projects.

In August 2005, inspectors at a transfer station in Riverside, Calif., discovered bags of pesticide at the bottom of a load of trash that came from a Walmart in Rialto. Riverside County District Attorney investigators visited the scene and began an investigation into Walmarts environmental violations. Upon learning of other active investigations into Walmart across the state, Riverside County contacted the attorney general. A collaboration between the attorney general and each district attorney from 19 jurisdictions in California then started.

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