Moral Low Ground

Economy

Walmart Fined $81.6 Million for Toxic Dumping in California and Missouri

walmart by jared c. benedict

Retail giant Walmart has been fined more than $81 million after pleading guilty to criminal charges of mishandling and dumping toxic chemicals in California and Missouri.

The Associated Press reports that Walmart was slapped with an $81.6 million fine after entering a guilty plea in a federal court in San Francisco. The world’s largest retailer pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of violating the Clean Water Act in California, as well as one count of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in Missouri, Agence France-Presse reports.

By pleading guilty, Walmart ended an investigation that spanned most of the past decade, with more than 20 prosecutors and dozens of environmental groups involved. The total cost to the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has exceeded $110 million, according to the AP. The investigation into the dumping began eight years ago when a San Diego County Health Department employee witnessed a Walmart worker pouring bleach down a drain.

According to prosecutors, Walmart dumped hazardous chemicals in trash bins and into sewers. San Francisco prosecutors accused the company of not training employees how to properly handle toxic waste.

“By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Walmart put the public and the environment at risk,” said Ignacio Moreno, an assistant attorney general for the US Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Tammy Dickinson, US attorney for Missouri’s Western District, said that Walmart improperly handled “truckloads of hazardous products, including more than two million pounds of pesticides.”

“Today’s criminal fine should send a message to companies of all sizes that they will be held accountable to follow federal environmental laws,” Dickinson added.

This isn’t the first time Walmart has paid a large fine to settle allegations of improper waste disposal. In 2010, the company agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle a civil suit alleging that 236 stores violated laws governing the transport and disposal of hazardous chemicals and other products.

Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told the AP that her company has corrected the problem and is “obviously happy that this is the final resolution.”

Walmart, which had nearly 9,000 stores in 15 countries in 2011, is ranked number one on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations. The company made $17 billion in profits in 2012.

The $81.6 million fine is the equivalent of about an hour and a half of Walmart’s revenue, which exceeded $469 billion last year.

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