Menards Corporation entered a guilty plea today in Eau Claire County Court to a reduced charge of illegally dumping toxic waste into a drain that eventually leads to a tributary of the Chippewa River.
The company will let a judge decide the size of the penalty.
Under the agreement, the state dropped the felony charge of disposal of hazardous waste without a license.. and Menards pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of willful discharge of a pollutant without a permit.
The guilty plea stems from what the company says was an improperly plumbed drain in one of their buildings that --instead of emptying into a septic system-- emptied into a sewer which led into state waters.
The state charged menards employees dumped chemicals.. including hydraulic fluid and paint removal solvent down that drain.
"We don't know how that drain came to be plumbed incorrectly," said Dawn Sands, corporate counsel for Mends, "At the end of the day, it is on our property, it is in our building, and therefore we are responsible, and we wanted to do the right thing and step up and take responsibility"
State Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who originally filed the charges against Menards, says the state is pleased with the agreement.
The case now moves to the penalty phase where the two sides have agreed on a fine that could range anywhere from a thousand dollars to two-and a-half million dollars for the violations.
Judge Lisa Stark will determine the fine in a hearing on August 8th.