AT&T has agreed to pay California authorities $23.8 million as part of a settlement to resolve allegations that hundreds of AT&T facilities in the state unlawfully disposed of hazardous waste and material over a nine-year period.
In addition, AT&T will spend an estimated $28 million over the next five years to implement environmental compliance measures required by the settlement.
This is the first enforcement action in California against a telecommunications company for its management of electronic waste.
California attorney general Kamala Harris says more than 235 AT&T warehouse and dispatch facilities throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials including electronic equipment, batteries, aerosol cans, as well as certain gels, liquids and other items used by AT&T service technicians in delivering telephone, Internet and video services to residential and business customers in California.
In 2011, inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division and investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to AT&T warehouse and dispatch facilities. The inspections revealed that AT&T was sending hazardous wastes to local landfills that were not permitted to receive those wastes.
Upon notice of the investigation, AT&T immediately agreed to cooperate and implemented measures to halt the removal of regular trash until it could be inspected to remove any potentially hazardous wastes before they reached municipal landfills, Harris says.
AT&T says the company takes environmental stewardship seriously. “We’ve cooperated closely with the state and Alameda County to resolve the issue in a way that is in the best interests of the environment, our customers and all Californians,” says spokesperson Marty Richter. “The settlement recognized the company for taking prompt action, dedicating significant additional resources toward environmental compliance, and improving our hazardous and universal waste management compliance programs.”
Earlier this month the California Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered battery recycling company Exide Technologies to set aside $38.6 million to close its Vernon facility and clean up lead contamination in the surrounding community.