Wal-Mart likes to talk environmental, but it has trouble walking environmental. This week, a well-known developer and contractor were fined $146,833 for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The developer, THF Grindstone Development LLC, which is owned by Stanley Kroenke, who married into the Walton family, and contractor Emery Sapp & Sons were fined for construction violations while building a Wal-Mart Supercenter and shopping center on Grindstone Parkway in Columbia, Missouri. It is fitting that the biggest retailer in America drew the biggest fine of its kind imposed by federal Environmental Protection Agency in Region 7, which includes Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, according to a news release. Between fall of 2005 and spring of 2006, THF provided insufficient erosion controls, causing runoff of concrete and sediment into a tributary of Hinkson Creek. THF and Emery Sapp also built concrete culverts directly into the tributary and its banks without a permit required by the Clean Water Act, which increased erosion in the stream and worsened the water quality in the creek’s watershed. In June of 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified the EPA about the illegal culverts. “During EPA inspection, our inspector documented sediment in the water,” said an EPA water enforcement chief for Region 7. “He could actually see sediment from the site in the water.” A spokesman for the developer told the Missourian newspaper the construction violations were a result of “some miscommunication.” The developer now has to plant trees, shrubs and grasses along the creek to prevent erosion. This repair work will cost around $70,000 for plants along two acres of the creek.
The culverts built for the Wal-Mart increased the speed of the stream and made siltation problems worse. “Hinkson is already on the impaired water bodies list for the state of Missouri. And it’s listed as polluted by unknown sources,” said a spokesman for the Sierra Club. The EPA said construction of the Wal-Mart made the situation at the creek even worse than it already was. The lawyer for the developer told the media, “We just wanted to get this behind us and move forward. And the important thing to remember is that the things were corrected very, very quickly upon discovery.” Quick to build, quick to pollute. That seems to be the winning formula. THF Grindstone is an affiliate of St. Louis-based THF Realty, a nationwide commercial development company co-owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke. For more on Wal-Mart’s heavy environmental footprint, search Newsflash by “environment.”