The signs at Wal-Mart say: Watch Out for Falling Prices. But the signs at their Dickson City, PA store should have read: Watch Out For Falling Rocks. According to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection, boulders were rolling through the Wal-Mart parking lots and one even crashed into the store’s loading dock. The rock slide was occasioned by a quarrying operation by a contractor. “Volkswagon-sized boulders were rolling onto the road and parking lot and crashing into a car,” said Mark Carmon, a spokesman for the state DEP. “Wal-Mart has since closed that store and taken over other retail space in the town.” Carmon noted that another proposed Wal-Mart in LeHigh county was also causing concerns about its impact on a nearby stream. “We haven’t reviewed that one yet,” Carmon told the Post-Gazette, “but there’s an irony here when you see some of the ads talking about how ‘green’ the company is. The company needs to keep a better eye on its contractors, and its contractors’ contractors.” Repeated environmental violations at a series of Pennsylvania Wal-Marts has led the state DEP to impose a ban on construction. Most of the violations involve sedimentation, and siltation into a stream. Construction of a Wal-Mart in Ebensburg, for example, disrupted 1.5 acres of a wetland. In Honesdale, Wal-Mart has caused sedimentation problems in the Lackawaxen River. “There was major erosion and sedimentation problems during construction,” the DEP said. “The sub and main contractors plowed ahead and figured to pay the fines to deliver the store on time, but the river really got silted. Now they are looking at six-figure fines from us.” The Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also considering fining Wal-Mart. In Richland, where the ban on construction is now in effect, Wal-Mart has already demolished homes to the north of the mall. Wal-Mart tried to shift the blame for its construction problems to its developers. Wal-Mart spokesman Les Copeland siad his company was sensitive to DEP concerns, but that some of the projects causing problems were built by developers under lease arrangements with Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart works through a developer,” the DEP noted, “to have a store site delivered and ready to occupy. But Wal-Mart is ultimately responsible.” In reply, Wal-Mart said they were taking the construction ban very seriously. “Wal-Mart has built over 2,300 stores nationwide and has a good track record,” Copeland said. “This is a very isolated situation, and we’ll do the right thing.”
If you have a Wal-Mart proposed for your community, and there is a river or a wetlands nearby, refer back to the experience of the Pennsylvania DEP. As for the closed Wal-Mart store in Dickson City, where boulders shut down the store, what else can you say but: Rock on, Wal-Mart!