EPA and the Department of Justice reached an environmental agreement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to resolve claims the retailer violated the Clean Water Act at 17 locations in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Massachusetts.
The settlement commits Wal-Mart to establish a $4.5 million environmental management plan, to improve the retailer''s compliance with environmental laws at each of its construction sites and minimize the impact of its building on streams and watersheds.
The settlement also compels Wal-Mart to pay a $1 million civil penalty.
"We must be vigilant in protecting our drinking water," said EPA Administration Christie Whitman. "Those responsible for construction sites must control hazardous pollution from flowing into drinking water sources and waterways."
EPA alleges that Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart and 10 of its contractors failed to comply with storm water regulations and illegally discharged pollution from several construction sites.
The Clean Water Act requires the owners and operators of large construction sites to have permits, which generally require site operators to create and carry out pollution prevention plans to minimize the discharge of pollutants into storm water runoff.
Storm water runoff from construction sites can cause silt and sediments to build up in lakes and streams and kill aquatic life. Runoff can also transport pollutants like oil and pesticides into nearby storm drains, into sewer systems and ultimately into streams and waterways.
The environmental management plan that Wal-Mart will establish aims to avert construction-related pollution. Wal-Mart will require its contractors to certify that all appropriate storm water control measures are in place before construction begins at new stores.
The plan also requires Wal-Mart to improve its oversight 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 EPA.
by Virginia Sutcliffe