Wal-Mart pleads guilty in hazardous waste case; will pay $82 million

New York -- Wal-Mart Stores pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to improperly handling and disposing of hazardous waste in California and Missouri, and agreed to pay about $82 million in fines. The settlement brings to a close an environmental investigation that lasted some eight years.

In cases filed by federal prosecutors in California, Wal-Mart pleaded guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials. The chain also pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Mo., to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Wal-Mart said its plea agreements with the U.S. Attorneys' Offices in the Northern and Central Districts of California, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri and an administrative resolution signed with the Environmental Protection Agency bring an end to compliance issues that took place years ago.

The resolution follows previous civil settlements the company entered into with California in 2010 and Missouri in 2012 that addressed the same facts raised by the federal government in the recent settlement, In total, Wal-Mart will have paid approximately $110 million to resolve all of these related cases, which includes $27.6 million paid to the state of California and more than $1.25 million to the state of Missouri.

In 2006, Wal-Mart put an environmental compliance program into place that it says has helped to rectify such issues.

“Walmart has a comprehensive and industry-leading hazardous waste program,” said Phyllis Harris, senior VP and chief compliance officer, Walmart U.S. “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.”