LOS ANGELES, May 28 (UPI) -- Walmart has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by improperly disposing hazardous materials at its U.S. stores, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
The retailer pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to six counts in a case originally brought in Los Angeles, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
The company, based in Bentonville, Ark., will pay the government $81 million in a settlement and has already paid almost $30 million to California and Missouri, the department said in a news release.
Walmart pleaded guilty Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act by improperly handling pesticides that had been returned by customers at its U.S. stores.
Court documents filed in the case indicate Walmart did not have a program in place and did not train workers in its stores on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices prior to 2006 -- resulting in hazardous wastes being discarded improperly at stores or improperly transported to product return centers, the department said.
In some cases, hazardous materials were put into municipal trash bins or poured into sewer systems.
"Retailers like Walmart that generate hazardous waste have a duty to legally and safely dispose of that hazardous waste, and dumping it down the sink was neither legal nor safe," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said. "The case against Walmart is designed to ensure compliance with our nation's environmental laws now and in the future."
"Walmart has a comprehensive and industry-leading hazardous waste program," said Phyllis Harris, senior vice president and chief compliance officer for Walmart in the United States. "The program was built around training, policies and procedures on how to safely handle consumer products that become hazardous waste, and we continue to run the same program in every store and club that was deployed years ago. We are pleased that this resolves all of these issues raised by the government."