AG Lautenschlager: Announces Criminal Charges Filed Against Menard, Inc. in Eau Claire County for Improper Disposal of Pollutants and Hazardous Wastes

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Deirdre Morgan 608/266-7876

MADISON – Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager announced today that her office has filed a criminal complaint in Eau Claire County against Menard, Inc., for improper disposal of pollutants and hazardous wastes at the company’s distribution center located at 4860 Menard Drive in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

According to the state’s complaint, there is a floor drain located in one of the buildings at the distribution center. Employees of the defendant dumped chemicals down this floor drain on a daily basis, including a paint-removal solvent, hydraulic fluid, and glass cleaner.

The complaint also alleges that employees of the defendant neutralized battery acid with baking powder over the floor drain, flushing the neutralized acid and baking powder down the drain, and that dirty water from a large floor-scrubbing machine was emptied down the drain every evening. The paint-removal solvent that was dumped down the drain is considered a hazardous waste.

The state’s complaint also alleges that the floor drain in question emptied into a storm water sewer tunnel. That tunnel led to a moat, where the contents eventually flowed into a ditch that discharges into a tributary of the Chippewa River. According to the complaint, these improper discharges of pollutants and hazardous wastes continued from at least 1998 until a search warrant was executed at the distribution center in September 2003.

“Compliance with laws regarding discharging pollutants and disposing of hazardous wastes is crucial to ensuring that the waters of Wisconsin are preserved for use by the citizens of the state,” Lautenschlager said. “We take very seriously this violation by one of the largest corporations in Wisconsin.”

The penalties faced by the defendants include $1,000 to $100,000 or up to 6 years in prison or both for Count 1 (disposal of hazardous wastes without a license) and $10-$25,000 or up to 6 months in prison or both for Count 2 (discharge of pollutants into the waters of the state).

Defendants in criminal proceedings enjoy a presumption of innocence. The state must prove its allegations at trial.

The Department of Justice brought this case at the request of the Department of Natural Resources. Assistant Attorneys General Jeff Gabrysiak and Hillary Schwab are representing the state.