The company sold portable fuel containers that create air pollution and do not comply with state clean air regulations, says the California Air Resources Board, ARB.
The board has accepted a settlement of $250,000 from Wal-Mart Stores to compensate for the violations. The repeated violations were due to systematic computer errors that allowed the fuel containers into California. These have since been rectified, says the board.
"Enforcement will continue to be an important aspect of cleaning our air," said Mary Nichols, who chairs the Air Resources Board. "The fumes from these cans should have been prevented."
Air Resources Board data shows that the more than 11 million gas cans statewide contribute about 100 tons per day of smog-forming hydrocarbons.
Of the 100 tons per day, about three-quarters are associated with fuel evaporation from vents and other types of openings.
Permeation - fumes that leak through the container walls - and spillage contribute about 16 tons per day.
State gas can regulations are intended to ensure that spillage and evaporative emissions are minimized or eliminated.
ARB investigators found that between 2003 and 2007, Wal-Mart allowed more than 3,000 illegal gas cans to enter their California distribution system and subsequently be sold.
"Because of their large numbers and lack of emission controls, gas cans contribute substantial amounts of hydrocarbon emissions, ozone-forming smog and related health problems," warned the Air Resources Board.
ARB initially sought the maximum fine of $500 for each violation, but Wal-Mart's own investigations and extensive cooperation led to leniency in assessing the penalty.
Ultimately, Wal-Mart paid $83 for each gas can violation. This range is four to five times the amount the individual products cost consumers.
Hydrocarbons from these cans can lead to the creation of ground level ozone. Ozone irritates and inflames the lining of the respiratory system and causes coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. It can worsen asthma symptoms, contribute to the development of asthma, and cause permanent lung damage.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.