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May 13, 2004

Wal-Mart's Prices?: Here's 1 Reason Why

Think there are other illegal reasons out there? Or even morally questionable ones?

Wal-Mart to pay $3.1 million penalty for Clean Water Act violation
By CURT ANDERSON | Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, will pay a $3.1 million fine to settle a Clean Water Act violation stemming from excessive storm water runoff from its construction sites, federal officials said Wednesday.

Wal-Mart also agreed in the settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department to improve runoff controls at the more than 200 sites each year where the company builds stores, including Sam’s Club outlets.

“Storm water requirements have been in place for a long time,” said Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for environment and national resources. “Developers like Wal-Mart must share responsibility with their construction contractors to ensure compliance.”

Officials at Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Storm water runoff carries sediment and dirt into the nation’s waterways, killing fish, destroying habitat and blocking light that spurs growth of beneficial plant life. The runoff also can contain pesticides, chemicals, solvents and other toxic substances.

The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., cites Wal-Mart violations at 24 construction sites in nine states and alleges the company failed to get required permits, did not institute a runoff control plan and failed to install controls to prevent discharges.
Wal-Mart will comply with these requirements under the agreement and will improve training and inspections of its construction sites. The settlement also requires frequent reporting to the EPA.


In addition, Wal-Mart agreed to spend $250,000 to help protect sensitive wetlands or waterways in one state, not yet determined, among the nine involved in the settlement. The nine states are California, Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

In 2001, Wal-Mart and several contractors reached a similar storm water settlement that included payment of a $1 million penalty. EPA inspections of other sites arising from that case led to the latest violations.

Wal-Mart reported sales in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31 of more than $256 billion, according to the company’s Internet site. In the United States, Wal-Mart operates 2,981 stores and supercenters, 538 Sam’s Club outlets and 67 Neighborhood Markets.