Wal-Mart has pleaded guilty to charges of environmental crimes, including the mishandling of hazardous waste and pesticides, and agreed to pay a total of $110 million to settle the cases. The plea agreements end a decade-long investigation into the retailer’s hazardous waste management practices and send a message to all companies – of any type and size – that the storage, transport and disposal of hazardous waste is strictly controlled by federal and state law. Referenced below are specific issues that may impact general contractors. Wal-Mart admitted to violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its retail stores across the United States. The company also admitted to improperly handling pesticides in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The U.S. Department of Justice is handling these criminal cases, which were brought on top of the related civil case filed by U.S. EPA against Wal-Mart – also for improper handling of hazardous waste, pesticides, and other materials in violation of FIFRA – as well as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Court documents show that prior to 2006, the company did not train its employees on how to handle and dispose hazardous materials at its stores. EPA specifically states the following RCRA violations at 100’s of Wal-Mart stores:
- Failure to make a hazardous waste determination;
- Failure to prepare proper safety documentation (a hazardous waste manifest);
- Offering hazardous waste to unpermitted treatment, storage, and disposal facilities; and
- Failure to meet hazardous waste, handling, storage, and emergency response requirements.
- Generators of hazardous wastes. The requirements for generators of hazardous wastes are based on the amount of hazardous waste generated. Generators of large amounts of hazardous waste are subject to more regulatory requirements than are generators of small amounts of hazardous wastes. The RCRA regulations list quantities of hazardous waste that determine whether a generator is large or small.
- Storage of hazardous wastes. Hazardous materials that are being used for their intended purpose can be stored indefinitely. However, once the material is no longer usable, the material is considered waste and time restrictions apply. The RCRA regulations specify the amount of time hazardous wastes are allowed to be stored at a site. If the storage time is exceeded, a RCRA permit is required.
- Transport, treatment, and disposal of hazardous wastes. To transport hazardous wastes, a transporter must be registered with either EPA or a state as a hazardous waste transporter. A generator is responsible for ensuring that a transporter is authorized to transport hazardous waste and that the hazardous waste is delivered to a RCRA-permitted treatment or disposal facility. The generator also must sign the hazardous wastes manifest used to track the transport of a hazardous waste to a permitted treatment or disposal facility. In addition, hazardous waste must be treated and disposed of at a facility permitted or licensed for that purpose by the state or federal government.
- Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Center - Hazardous Waste State Resources Locator
- Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Center - Universal Waste Information and State Resources Locator.