The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has signed a consent order and agreement with Wal-Mart to upgrade the environmental construction practices for stores in this state. “Wal-Mart has agreed to heighten its vigilance with its contractors and subcontractors during construction activities for all of its stores,” said the DEP. “Wal-Mart will also pay a $100,000 civil penalty for past violations, $75,000 of which will be used for worthy improvement projects in Northeast Pennsylvania.” The agreement is the result of Wal-Mart violations of water quality laws and regulations at a store being built in Honesdale Borough in Wayne County in 1998. Pre-construction meetings with DEP must take place at all present and future Wal-Mart construction sites in Pennsylvania. Wal-Mart must correct all the remaining violations at its Honesdale site, and pay $2,800 to the Wayne County Conservation District. The District had to make “numerous inspections” of the Wal-Mart site during construction. Due to repeated violations, the Wal-Mart construction heavily silted the Lackawaxen River. The District reported Wal-Mart to the DEP, and three stop-work orders had to be issued for different areas of the construction site. The DEP put a hold on new permits for Wal-Mart construction until an agreement could be reached. Inspections revealed that there were wetlands violations at the Honesdale Wal-Mart site as well. The DEP says it is considering “additional enforcement action” against Wal-Mart’s contractors.
Whenever a proposed Wal-Mart impacts a wetlands area, it is important for citizen’s groups to retain their own wetlands expert, to delineate, or “map” the true extent of the wetlands. Even if Wal-Mart gets its permit to build, the Honesdale case suggests that the community should keep the state’s environmental protection people involved to make sure that damage is not done to the local rivers or streams. For more information on the Wal-Mart DEP violations in PA, contact Community Relations Coordinator Mark Carmon at 717-826-2511.