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Letter to the Editor: Menard's won't promote the health and welfare of Decorah

Posted: Tue, Sep 4, 2018 7:35 AM

(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Karen McLean of Decorah):

"As City Council members consider the Menard's petition to rezone a property from F-1 Flood Plain to C-4 Shopping Center Commercial, they have been asked to evaluate 16 factors related to the petition.  One factor asks the council to consider whether the rezoning would 'promote health and the general welfare.'

Relevant to this factor is Menard's environmental record.  You've heard the old adage, 'Past performance is the best predictor of future behavior.'  Consider Menard's track record.

    In 2005, Menards was ordered to pay $2 million in fines and other charges after the company pleaded guilty to discharging pollutants (via a floor drain) into the Chippewa River.  At the time, the case represented the largest environmental fine against a company in the state of Wisconsin.

    In 1997, the company and its founder, John R. Menard Jr., pleaded no contest and paid more than $1.5 million in penalties on charges of violating state hazardous waste laws.  Mr. Menard used his own pickup truck to haul bags of chromium-contaminated incinerator ash produced by the company home with him to be dumped into his personal trash.  At the time, it was the largest criminal environmental fine ever imposed in Wisconsin.  Exposure to chromium can cause skin irritation and lung cancer.
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    In 2011, Menard's agreed to pay $30,000 in fines and court costs for violating WI state environmental laws in connection with a 2007 case in which a pallet of liquid herbicide was dumped on a parking island of a Menard's store in Onalaska.

    In 2006, the EPA issued an administrative order against Menard's for damaging a tributary of Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls South Dakota.

    In 2003, Menard's was charged by the Minnesota Attorney General for manufacturing and selling arsenic-tainted mulch with packaging labeled 'ideal for playgrounds and for animal bedding.'

    And more recently, in 2014 Menard's was fined $348,600 by the EPA.

Add to that numerous OSHA violations, several labor class-action lawsuits, and sanctioning by the National Labor Relations Board for violating federal labor laws, and one must question how a company with this track record would promote the health and general welfare of the citizens of Decorah."