Wal-Mart devestates the enviromennt

Where in a small town does a 160,000 square foot Wal-Mart fit?Right now in St. Albans, Vt. that is the question that District six’s Environmental Commission is pondering.The immense super-centers Wal-Mart constructs literally cover hundreds of thousands of square feet each. Instead of building upon older stores, new, exploitable spaces are bought, razed and completely transformed.According to the Vermont Natural Resources Council, Wal-Mart has abandoned over 300 stores nationwide, which now leaves over 500 million square feet of unused space.In any watershed, parking lots that size can be harmful because of the amount of polluted storm water run-off generated. There are enough streams in Vermont that no longer meet basic water quality standards and another giant Wal-Mart certainly wouldn’t help the situation.Wal-Mart also has a notable history of numerous pollution violations. In both 2001 and 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanded a total of over $4.1 million in compensation for Clean Water Act violations. Around 24 different Wal-Mart construction sites were discharging excessive amounts of polluted runoff, endangering the fish and habitat nearby. Both the Georgia and the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Department fined Wal-Mart for water pollution as well.Most frustrating is the retailer’s “organic push.” Grist Magazine has reported that Wal-Mart sells 10 percent premium organic products, which undermines the current 20 to 30 percent premium. Many believe that attempting to promote organics in a mass marketing, low-price Wal-Mart simply will not work. Outsourcing to make it possible would most likely occur in China or other countries where organic and labor standards remain relatively low.Local businesses and habitats have felt the negative effects associated with Wal-Marts all over the country. St. Albans does not need to be next. A retailer that has continuously ignored pollution standards, thoughtlessly left millions of square feet of space unused, and lowered organic standards does not seem to fit with Vermont.In 1997, Wal-Mart was denied space in St. Albans, and I hope that refusal can be continued. For more information about the proposed Wal-Mart go to http://www.vermontwalmartwatch.org/impact/environment.html.ECO-MIND is a weekly column on environmental issues at UVM organized by the UVM Environmental Council. If you are interested in suggesting a topic or contributing a column, contact [email protected]