The environmental woes at Wal-Mart just keep spilling over. Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules require corporations to disclose certain environmental matters, and Wal-Mart continues to disclose its environmental violations. In its most recent quarterly report to the SEC, for the period ending October 31, 2005, Wal-Mart has disclosed that on November 8, 2005, the company received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, California, and from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, “seeking documents and information relating to the receipt, transportation, handling, identification, recycling, treatment, storage and disposal of certain merchandise that constitutes hazardous materials or hazardous waste” at two Wal-Mart distribution centers. The statement to the SEC says that local officials in California and Nevada have both initiated investigations into the matter, and that the company is “cooperating fully” with the authorities. Wal-Mart also reported to the SEC that the company is being investigated by District Attorneys in Solano and Orange County, California, for allegedly improperly disposing of “a limited amount of damaged or returned product containing dry granular fertilizer and pesticides.” The EPA is also after Wal-Mart for stormwater violations in Caguas, Puerto Rico. This is all on top of a $1.15 million payment to the state of Connecticut in 2001 for stormwater management violations, dumping photo chemicals and auto repair shop wastewater without proper permits, plus a $3.1 million civil penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for stormwater violations at site around the country.
Wal-Mart tells the public that “environmental leadership is critical to our future ability to grow and thrive as a company.” But so far, the only environmental growth Wal-Mart has shown is in the lengthening list of environmental violations brought by local, state and federal authorities. “Focus on the environment,” the company says, “is key to our mission to improve the quality of life for people around the world.” Wal-Mart would do well to start at home by improving the quality of its interaction with environmental authorities, and train its own staff not to dump hazardous materials illegally. Search by “environment” for earlier stories of Wal-Mart transgressions. Wal-Mart, of course, pays out millions of dollars to settle these legal actions,without “admitting any wrongdoing.” Always.