Residents in Sturbridge,Massachusetts, home to historic Sturbridge Village, fought a Wal-Mart store for several years. The group Save Our Sturbridge (SOS) took the developer, W.S. Weiner, to court, but after a long battle, the retailer built its store. The thought of a Wal-Mart store in their rural community was enough to make people sick. Now that the store is up and running, the Wal-Mart is literally making people sick. This week, thirteen Wal-Mart workers and one customer were taken to hospitals because of exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning from gas pouring out of the retailer’s rooftop heater. This is the second such evacuation of a Wal-Mart store in Massachusetts in the past three months. On July 1st a Wal-Mart store in Danvers, Massachusetts had to be evacuated because of a chemical release. Sturbridge fire officials said the leak at Wal-Mart came from a vent system in the lawn-and-garden section of the store. A propane heating unit on the roof emitted the fumes. Workers in the store started complaining of headaches and nausea. By 10 a.m., the store’s carbon monoxide detectors went off, and the retailer began evacuating people. Emergency crews had to be called to the store (at public expense) and at least 3 people were vomiting in front of the store Others reported dizziness, headaches, and nausea, according to the Boston Globe. A Wal-Mart spokesperson told the Globe that the store’s evacuation “was a precautionary measure we took to ensure the safety of both our workers and customers.” The Danvers incident is still being investigated. In Danvers, the city’s hazardous material team had to set up a decontamination tent for patrons and workers.
Next time you’re driving along the Massachusetts Turnpike, stop by the local Wal-Mart store for some CO and groceries. Many of the activists in Sturbridge who fought this store, are likely telling their neighbors, “None of this would have happened if we had stopped Wal-Mart in the first place.” Now Sturbridge makes the national news because a big box store is making people sick.