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Wal-Mart to pay $27.6 million to settle California environmental case

Wal-Mart has agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle charges that it violated California environmental laws in its handling and disposal of hazardous materials, prosecutors involved in the case announced Monday in San Diego.

The settlement was signed by Superior Court Judge Linda B. Quinn. The San Diego County district attorney's office and the state attorney general's office had filed a civil complaint last month alleging that all of Wal-Mart's 236 stores, Sam's Club stores, distribution centers and storage facilities were in violation of environmental laws.

Among the materials being improperly transported, stored and dumped were pesticides, chemicals, paint, acid, aerosols, fertilizer and motor oil.

"This settlement ensures that Wal-Mart obeys the laws when shipping potentially hazardous materials on our streets and highways," said Los Angeles County District Atty. Steve Cooley.

The case began when an investigator from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health spotted a Wal-Mart employee dumping bleach down a drain. In Solano County in Northern California, a child was found playing in a fertilizer pile left near his home.

The settlement includes $20 million to be split among prosecutors in 20 jurisdictions and 32 environmental health agencies throughout the state; $1.6 million in costs for the investigation; $3 million to a fund for other environmental investigations; and $3 million toward keeping stores in compliance.

In a prepared statement, Wal-Mart Vice President Phyllis Harris said: "It's important to note that these incidents happened at least four years ago. Since then, we have worked closely with the state of California on a comprehensive hazardous waste plan that includes improved training programs, policies and procedures."

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

 
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