US retail giant Wal-Mart has pleaded guilty to charges of environmental crimes, including mishandling of hazardous waste and pesticides, and agreed to pay a total of USD 110 million to settle the cases.
The US Justice Department said Wal-Mart Stores has pleaded guilty in cases filed by the federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its retail stores across the country.
It also pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers at its stores across the country.
As a result of the three criminal cases brought by the Justice Department, as well as a related civil case filed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wal-Mart will pay approximately USD 81.6 million for its unlawful conduct.
"Coupled with previous actions brought by the states of California and Missouri for the same conduct, Wal-Mart will pay a combined total of more than USD 110 million to resolve cases alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws," the Justice Department said.
Federal authorities alleged that Wal-Mart did not have a programme in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level.
As a result, hazardous wastes were either discarded improperly at the store level - including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system - or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product return centers located throughout the United States, it said.
Wal-Mart owns more than 4,000 stores across US that sell thousands of products which are flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic or otherwise hazardous under federal law.