Retailer Target has agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle claims of dumping hazardous and combustible liquids, including allegations that it sent 5,000 pounds of toxic products to a Los Angeles food bank.
The settlement, which is pending final approval by a judge, would end over five years of investigation by California authorities, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Under the agreement, Target would admit no wrongdoing but pay about $3.4 million to the California attorney general’s office, with smaller amounts going to city attorneys in Los Angeles and San Diego and to district attorney’s offices in 20 counties.
Target has also agreed a California-wide effort to enforce compliance with waste disposal laws. This will include paying an independent auditor to check the retail chain’s compliance over three years, and training staff in how to legally dispose of hazardous materials.
The press release announcing the state’s legal action against Target, in 2009, accused the retailer of a “willful disregard for California’s hazardous waste laws”.
In a statement released to the Times after the settlement, Target said it “has a comprehensive program to ensure our handling, storage, disposal and documentation of hazardous materials complies with California law, and we train our store teams regularly as part of this program. We will continue to devote substantial resources in order to remain a responsible corporate steward of the environment.”
The state had accused Target of dumping flammable liquids and toxic chemicals in local landfills over a period of eight years. Target stores sent items including flammable aerosol canisters, propane canisters, corrosive spray cleaners, medical waste and a photo processing unit to a local landfill not authorized to receive the waste.
In January 2008, investigators discovered that multiple Target stores sent several tons of products to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, the attorney general’s office said. The shipments contained over 5,000 pounds of damaged, leaking and unusable items with flammable, toxic and corrosive properties, and a licensed hazardous waste hauler had to handle the waste at a cost of over $5,000, the office said.
In 2002, a Target employee in Sacramento County dumped leaking containers of liquid chlorine into the store’s trash compactor, causing a chemical reaction that released toxic fumes and resulted in several people being hospitalized, the attorney general’s office said.
The settlement is part of a push by prosecutors throughout Califiornia to crack down on violations by big-box retailers, and investigations into violations by big retailers in the state are still underway, the Times reported.
Last spring Wal-Mart agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle charges that it violated California environmental laws by improperly handling, storing and disposing of hazardous materials.
In 2009 the state forged a $8.65 million settlement with Kmart, requiring the company to stop disposing of toxic substances in landfills. Home Depot also reached a settlement with the state after alleged environmental violations.