A judge has ordered Menard Inc. to pay $30,000 for dumping chemicals outside its Onalaska store in January 2007.
Menard, a large Eau Claire-based hardware chain, “disposed of herbicide by dumping it onto a snow-covered island in the parking lot,” according to a statement released by the state attorney general’s office.
The incident was merely the result of an inexperienced employee making a mistake, said Jeff Abbott, a spokesman for Menard.
“A young, part-time team member poured some weed killer from damaged bottles into the center islands at our Onalaska parking lot, thinking it would just kill the weeds,” Abbott said. “We hired a consultant to look into the matter and no environmental damage was found.”
The employee, Abbott said, “didn’t intend to do anything wrong, but nevertheless, we received a substantial fine.”
The incident, though, is the latest of several environmental infractions that have been filed against Menard.
The company settled a 1994 hazardous waste infraction for $160,000; a 1997 criminal case, which was brought against owner John Menard Jr. for personally disposing of hazardous waste, for $1.55 million; and a 2004 criminal case also involving illegal hazardous waste disposal for $2 million.
Such illegal chemical disposal “can pose a potential risk to the public who may come into contact with hazardous wastes that are not properly handled and disposed,” according to a news release attributed to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
Bill Cosh, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, could not immediately be reached Tuesday.
Abbott called the state’s environmental laws “very complex.” He would not answer questions regarding previous incidents or fines, but said Menard has fully cooperated with the state’s investigation.
“We have paid the fine,” Abbott said, “and will continue to work very hard to comply.”
— James Briggs