Whole Foods Agrees to Improve Waste Management in EPA Settlement
DALLAS — On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Whole Foods, Inc. over violations of hazardous waste regulations. During a year-long investigation, EPA found Whole Foods improperly identified or mishandled hazardous waste at company facilities throughout Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In addition to correcting the violations, Whole Foods will also pay penalties totaling more than $3.5 million and promote hazardous waste compliance in the retail industry as part of a supplemental environmental project, or SEP.
“All companies must follow the law and be responsible stewards of their hazardous waste, from generating it to safely disposing of it,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Whole Foods is correcting these violations and will ensure their stores and facilities continue to comply with environmental regulations. They will also look into launching an innovative hazardous waste tracking system that we hope becomes the industry standard.”
After the New Mexico Environment Department asked EPA to follow-up on information they shared on Whole Foods, EPA enforcement officials uncovered violations during a year-long investigation and record review of Whole Foods’ actions as a generator of hazardous waste. Investigators in EPA Region 6 found Whole Foods did not properly make hazardous waste determinations at facilities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, as required by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Whole Foods also improperly handled spent lamps, which are categorized as “universal” hazardous waste, a type of hazardous waste composed of items common to many types of facilities and industrial sectors.
As part of the settlement with Texas facilities, Whole Foods will create and fund a SEP to educate Texas retailers—particularly smaller businesses—about hazardous waste laws and the importance of maintaining compliance. This SEP, worth $500,000, aims to raise awareness of business owners’ responsibilities and increase compliance with regulations, and will result in environmental benefit to communities.
The RCRA Hazardous Waste Program establishes a system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal, including treatment and storage. EPA and the states verify compliance with these requirements through a comprehensive compliance monitoring program, which includes inspecting facilities, reviewing records and taking enforcement action where necessary.
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