Cumberland County, North Carolina already has five Wal-Mart supercenters, but the area was spared its sixth sprawling outlet because of leaking gas. The Fayetteville Observer reports that gasoline leaking from a now-closed Texaco gas station has polluted the groundwater in a lot adjacent to a site Wal-Mart coveted for a supercenter. State officials from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources insisted, however, that local residents are not drinking that water, and that pollution levels were not high enough to warrant state response. Wal-Mart announced that soil contamination was the reason the retailer was abandoning the 17 acre site — but the company will now simply look for another location nearby. The owners of the land, who live in South Carolina, will reportedly lose out on a deal worth $3.75 million. The real estate agent handling the land said that developers usually ask for a discount on purchase price, as much as 50%, if the land is contaminated, and the landowner is responsible for removing the pollution. This involves pumping the groundwater and filtering out the gasoline, and then monitoring the site annually for pollution levels. The agent said such remediation is not that expensive, but apparently it was more than Wal-Mart wanted to pay. So thanks to a leaking underground storage tank, Wal-Mart is moving on.
The newspaper reported that some residents were disappointed that Wal-Mart was not coming, and repeated the Wal-Mart claim that “supercentes usually bring 300 to 400 jobs,” which is a gross figure that fails to note that as many as 80% or more of those jobs will make up for jobs lost at other local retailers when Wal-Mart opens. Not only is the groundwater saturated with petroleum, but the county is already saturated with Wal-Marts.