JUDGE signs decree ordering Wal-Mart to pay $1 million

Friday, August 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ A federal judge has signed a consent decree ordering Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to pay a $1 million civil penalty and adopt stronger environmental policies.

The settlement of a lawsuit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was filed in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville on June 7.

U.S. District Judge H. Franklin Waters signed the settlement Wednesday after a 30-day period for public comment.

The EPA had accused Wal-Mart of violating the Clean Water Act and illegally discharging dirt from 17 construction sites in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Wal-Mart agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty if a construction site discharges pollutants in significant quantities. Wal-Mart also agreed to sample runoff at 10 construction sites in the next year and report the results to the EPA.

The EPA estimated Wal-Mart would have to spend $4.5 million to implement the changes, but a Wal-Mart spokesman disputed that figure, saying many of the improvements required by the settlement have already been implemented.

``Those responsible for construction sites must control hazardous pollutants from flowing into drinking water sources and waterways,'' EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said in a statement at the time the settlement was first announced.

Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz has said the charges involved ``paperwork violations,'' not actual damage to the environment.

The fine was the first multi-state enforcement effort involving violations of storm water regulations, the Justice Department said.

Wertz said the allegations involve just 17 of the hundreds of stores built from 1995-98. Wal-Mart will now require contractors to certify they have drainage plans before starting construction. The company also will sample pollutants in storm water at some construction sites, reporting findings to the EPA.