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Wal-Mart has agreed to pay $3.1 million in fines for violating the Clean Water Act at 24 sites in nine states, according to the Justice Department.
The fine is the largest penalty every assessed against a company for this kind of infraction. It also is the second such fine Wal-Mart has received in three years for failing to manage stormwater runoff. (Wal-Mart was fined $1 million in 2001.)
Thomas L. Sansonetti, an assistant attorney general, said Wal-Mart and its contractors failed to obtain permits before construction, failed to develop a plan to manage runoff and failed to install proper fences and screens to prevent runoff from reaching lakes, streams and other bodies of water, in some cases contaminating them, the New York Times reported.
"This has a significant impact on water quality in the United States," Sansonetti said in announcing the settlement at a news conference.
Thomas V. Skinner, acting assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said the settlement "kicks off a campaign to increase compliance" of runoff violations and would remain "a national priority" for the agency.
Gus Whitcomb, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said, "We appreciate the government's focus on the environment and feel confident that the agreement we reached with the EPA will strengthen environmental compliance nationwide."