June 14, 2006
Home Depot to Pay $425,000 Penalty and Correct Violations
Agreement with DEP Sets Standards for Retailers Across Nation
Settlement stems from violations at 13 stores in Connecticut
Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced a wide-ranging settlement with Home Depot under which this major national retail chain is paying penalties of $425,000 for numerous violations of environmental regulations at its stores in the state as well as making major improvements in its environmental practices.
The violations found at 13 Home Depot stores in Connecticut involved the improper display, handling and disposal of products – such as pesticides and fertilizers – that contain hazardous materials. Home Depot was also cited on a statewide basis for failing to comply with the state’s hazardous waste, pesticide and storm water management programs.
Governor M. Jodi Rell said, "Home Depot has a major presence in our state and a serious responsibility to conduct its business here in an environmentally responsible manner. I am proud of the work of DEP in citing Home Depot for violations of our laws and pleased that the agency and Home Depot were able to reach a positive settlement. This agreement serves as a national model and demonstrates that retailers of all sizes can operate profitably in our state while respecting our environment."
DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, "Today’s announcement reminds retailers that you can not break the law. The state of Connecticut has strong environmental regulations designed to protect our environment, our natural resources and the health of the people of this state – and DEP takes very serious its responsibility to enforce these rules."
"The positive aspects to this settlement," Commissioner McCarthy said, "are that Home Depot is changing its ways – not only here in Connecticut, but around the nation. It is also bringing real change to practices at other major retailers. Finally, funds from the penalty paid by Home Depot will help DEP finance a number of important programs to strengthen compliance and enforcement in the retail sector and to work with municipalities on improving their ability to address issues related to economic growth and development."
Expressing the sentiment of several environmental groups who were on hand for the announcement, Curt Johnson, senior attorney, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said, "While we look forward to reviewing the details of the settlement with Home Depot, we strongly support this DEP effort to enforce laws that keep dangerous pollutants from threatening our health and our rivers and streams."
"This action, is a shot across the bow for all major retailers in the state," Johnson said. "Torn bags of pesticides and fertilizers unnecessarily expose our children to dangerous chemicals. And when left exposed to the torrential rains we have experienced this spring, the exposed chemicals end up polluting our rivers, streams and lakes."
Under terms of a Consent Order signed with DEP, Home Depot will:
- Pay a Civil Penalty of $99,000
- Pay $326,000 to an agency fund for special environmental programs
- Continue to implement and improve a comprehensive Environmental Management System to ensure that operations at all current and future stores meet with Connecticut’s environmental requirements
- Hire a third party to audit ongoing compliance with environmental regulations at Home Depot stores in the state and report results to both the company and DEP
The settlement stems from violations cited at Home Depot stores in: North Haven, Berlin, Norwalk, Fairfield, Southington, Danbury, West Hartford, Enfield, New Hartford, Lisbon, Derby, Middletown and Waterbury.
Changes at Home Depot
As a result of the settlement, Home Depot is putting Environmental Management Systems in place – in Connecticut and its stores across the nation – that include:
- Improved outdoor display and storage of various chemicals and products, such as pesticides, fertilizers, swimming pool additives, bags of concrete, deicing materials and pressure treated wood. These steps are designed to prevent spills and breakage that result in hazardous materials being caught up in storm water runoff.
- Improved indoor displays to prevent shopping carts and hand trucks from breaking open packages of products that contain hazardous materials
- Increased training for staff on proper handling and disposal of products containing hazardous materials
- New procedures – such as patches for broken bags – to prevent the unnecessary disposal of products
- Retrofitting existing stores and improved design of future stores to accommodate the environmentally safe management of products and hazardous materials
Home Depot has also worked with major manufacturers on improved bags and containers for pesticides and fertilizers. This will reduce breakage and the volume of hazardous materials that need to be managed and disposed. Products packaged in this new manner are being sold at Home Depot stores – in Connecticut and nationwide – as well as at other retail outlets.
Funds from Home Depot Penalty Payment
Funds from the Home Depot payment to the DEP’s environmental fund will help finance initiatives such as:
- Increased outreach and education on environmental regulations and "best" business practices for retailers who sell lawn care, swimming pool and other products containing hazardous materials.
- Enhanced training for members of local planning, zoning inland wetland and other municipal officials on managing growth and development to best protect wetlands, waterways and other valuable natural resources. Training will address issues such as storm water management and site plan reviews.
- New outreach materials on organic land care for municipalities to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides on parks, playing fields and other properties owned by cities and towns.
Some of the violations at Home Depot date back to inspections conducted during 2001. Negotiations on the Consent Order signed by Home Depot and DEP started in 2004. The Consent Order covers noncompliance with Connecticut’s hazardous waste and pesticide management programs as well as the storm water management program.
In a previous enforcement action against a major national retailer, DEP – with assistance from the office of the Attorney General – reached a $1.15 million settlement with Wal-Mart. This settlement covered storm water and other environmental violations at 23 stores in the state. These violations involved similar retail sales issues as well as storm water management practices during construction of stores.
Background on Environmental Regulations
The state’s hazardous waste management regulations are designed to protect human health and the environment by ensuring environmentally sound waste management practices. They are also designed to encourage resource conservation by ensuring proper handling and disposal of materials containing hazardous constituents.
State storm water regulations enforced by DEP are designed to prevent chemicals, sediments, oils and metals from being picked up by rain or snow because they are then carried into rivers, streams and ultimately Long Island Sound through storm drain systems. This type of pollution poses a serious risk to water quality, aquatic life and the public health.