DOJ: Attorney General Lautenschlager Announces Menard, Inc. Pleads Guilty to Discharging Pollutants into Waters of the State

For Immediate Release

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Scot Ross

MADISON – Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager announced today that Menard, Inc. has entered a plea of guilty to violations of Wisconsin’s water pollution laws. The State filed a criminal complaint in September 2004 charging Menard, Inc., with one count of disposing hazardous wastes without a license and one count of discharging pollutants into waters of the state without a permit. Menard, Inc., faces a fine of $2.5 million for the violations.

“Wisconsin’s laws protecting our waters are tough because the health of our citizens and the integrity of the natural environment are at stake,” Lautenschlager said. “The Wisconsin Department of Justice enforces these laws for everyone.”

According to the complaint, employees at Menard, Inc.’s Distribution Center in Eau Claire disposed of solvents, cleaners, oils, wash water, and other pollutants down a maintenance shop drain that led to a stormwater tunnel, and the stormwater tunnel discharged to a ditch-and-lagoon system that emptied into a tributary of the Chippewa River.

Pursuant to an agreement between the parties, at a hearing today before Eau Claire County Circuit Judge Lisa K. Stark, the state moved to dismiss the hazardous waste charges in exchange for Menard, Inc., pleading guilty to discharging pollutants into the waters of the state without a permit. The complaint alleges that such discharges occurred on numerous dates and occasions between September 7, 2001, and September 18, 2003. The penalties range from $10 to $25,000 per day of violation. The maximum penalty Menard, Inc., faces is a fine of $2.5 million, based on 100 days of violation. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for August 8, 2005.

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.