Four major big box chain stores in Massachusetts have been fined by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for violating air quality and hazardous waste regulations. According to a press release from the state DEP, “The stores with violations were Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and BJ’s. ‘Environmental laws apply across the board to all types and sizes of businesses, and they will be enforced accordingly,’ said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield. Wal-Mart stores in Northampton and Pittsfield was levied an $8,000 penalty by MassDEP for violating state oil spill reporting requirements following oil spills at both stores. On August 12, 2004 at 1 p.m., Wal-Mart notified MassDEP of a spill of waste motor oil at its Pittsfield store. The release occurred the previous night when an unknown party tipped over a drum of waste oil generated by Wal-Mart’s Tire & Lube Center in the parking lot in an act of vandalism. The oil leaked into storm drains and entered a retention pond. Wal-Mart did not notify DEP within two hours of obtaining knowledge of the oil spill, even though Wal-Mart was aware of the spill at 12 a.m. on August 12. Wal-Mart however, took appropriate steps to initiate the cleanup on the morning of August 12. At its Northampton store, on January 4, 2005, Wal-Mart notified MassDEP of a spill of hydraulic oil. The release was discovered 7 days earlier on December 28, 2004 during repair of a solid waste compactor at the store. Wal-Mart arranged for cleanup of the oil spill on December 28, but again did not notify MassDEP within two hours of obtaining knowledge of the oil spill. Wal-Mart has since arranged for appropriate assessment and cleanup of both spills. Wal-Mart is training employees on use of Wal-Mart’s Environmental Management Guidance Manual to insure that environmental requirements, including reporting of oil spills, are adequately responded to at its Massachusetts’ stores. On February 3, 2004, MassDEP conducted an inspection of the Lowe’s facility located at 1600 Boston Road, Springfield. During that inspection, and during MassDEP’s review of the facility’s files, the Department observed noncompliance with the Commonwealth’s Hazardous Waste regulations. On March 25 and April 1, 2005, Lowe’s self-disclosed hazardous waste compliance findings it had identified pursuant to a voluntary audit at all of the Lowe’s Massachusetts stores. The audit disclosed noncompliance similar to the Springfield facility at these other stores. Lowe’s has agreed to pay a penalty of $7,500, remedy the noncompliance at all of its Massachusetts stores and implement an Environmental Management System. Home Depot has agreed to pay a $3,750 penalty to the Commonwealth for noncompliance with state regulations governing hazardous waste. The violations were discovered in 2004 during DEP inspections of the company’s facilities located at 2001 Boston Road, Wilbraham, and 170 Daggett Drive, West Springfield. In addition to paying a fine, the company has agreed to take corrective actions to ensure compliance. Home Depot cooperated with the DEP and was diligent in addressing the noncompliance issues. BJ’s has also entered into a consent order with MassDEP to address violations of state regulations governing air pollution and hazardous waste. The consent order requires payment of a $1,500 penalty and the development and implementation of a Environmental Management System. Additionally, during a January 5, 2005 follow up inspection of the BJ’s Chicopee facility, BJ’s was again observed to be in noncompliance with state Stage II Vapor Recovery and Hazardous Waste requirements. State law requires that service stations install and maintain pollution control equipment — called “Stage II” — to capture the gasoline vapors released during refueling of cars and trucks. The previous consent order required that BJ’s pay a suspended penalty if it is determined that BJ’s violated any provision of the consent order within one year of its effective date. Due to the second violation, MassDEP claimed a suspended penalty of $1,000 for the failure of BJ’s to comply with the previous order.
Break environmental laws, pay a little fine, then break more environmental laws, and pay larger fines. It’s all part of the big box ethic. Maybe they catch you, maybe not. But if they do, you pay your little fine, and you break your environmental laws once again. For similar stories, search Newsflash by “environmental.”