Wal-Mart pays $1 million for water pollution

The US retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pay $1 million in fines for violations under the Clean Water Act, and to produce a $4.5 million environmental management plan in order to solve the problem.

This is the first ever federal action under the Clean Water Act’s storm water provisions against a company for multi-state violations, according to the EPA, and results from infringements at 17 locations in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Massachusetts, where Wal-Mart and 10 of its contractors discharged pollution from construction sites in storm water.

Under the Clean Water Act, owners and operators of large construction sites are required to hold permits which oblige site operators to create and carry out pollution prevention plans minimising the discharge of pollutants into storm water runoff. In its 1998 National Water Quality Inventory to Congress, the EPA identified urban runoff and storm sewers as leading causes of impaired water quality in the US.

“We must be vigilant in protecting our drinking water,” said EPA Administrator, Christie Whitman. “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.”

Wal-Mart’s new environmental management plan will require its contractors to certify that all appropriate storm water control measures are in place before construction begins at new stores. The company will also have to improve its supervision 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.

“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.”

The settlement, filed in federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, will now undergo a 30 day period of public comment.

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