Illinois-based Walgreen Co. has been ordered to pay a settlement of $16.57 million for illegally sending hazardous materials including pesticides, bleach, paint, and aerosols to local landfills throughout California, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley announced today. The ruling was made by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill in a case brought by O'Malley and 42 other California District Attorneys and two city attorneys.
During the summer and fall of 2011, Alameda County inspectors coordinated with district attorney investigators and environmental regulators statewide on a series of inspections of dumpsters belonging to Walgreens stores. They found that the company was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes — also including automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical wastes, and other toxic, ignitable, and corrosive materials — straight to local landfills instead of to hazardous-waste facilities, whether they can be properly contained and prevented from leaching into the environment. The dumpster inspections found that 34 out of 37 Walgreens statewide were in violation of state law.
Out of the total settlement, Walgreen Co. must pay $139,750 in civil penalties and cost recovery to Alameda County environmental regulators and $1.1 million in civil penalties and cost recovery to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. Big-box retailer Costco was nailed with a similar $3.6 million judgement in June after inspectors in Alameda County and throughout the state found that it, too, was improperly disposing of a wide range of hazardous materials.
Walgreens stores are now required to dispose of hazardous waste (commonly generated through damage, spills, and returns) in separate, labeled bins. State-registered haulers will collect the waste and deliver it to proper disposal facilities.