Rite Aid Corporation to Pay More than $12 Million for Unlawful Disposal of Hazardous Waste
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced yesterday that Rite Aid Corporation has been ordered to pay more than $12.3 million to settle a civil lawsuit alleging that some 600 California Rite Aid stores unlawfully handled and disposed of hazardous materials.
The judgment marks the culmination of a joint environmental protection lawsuit filed in September 2013 by the district attorneys of Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Riverside counties. In all, 52 California district attorneys, including the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office, joined the civil action. Tuolumne County participates through a specially appointed part-time circuit prosecutor funded by civil penalties.
San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Linda L. Lofthus has ordered the Rite Aid Corporation to pay $12,324,000 in settlement of the civil environmental prosecution.
The case developed from an investigation by Los Angeles environmental health agencies during the fall of 2009. The investigation expanded when prosecutors, investigators and environmental regulators statewide came together to conduct a series of waste inspections at Rite Aid facilities and at landfills throughout California.
The inspections revealed that during a six-and-a-half year period Rite Aid transported hazardous waste, disposing of it improperly. The hazardous products allegedly discarded included pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical and bio hazardous wastes and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.
Under the final judgment, Rite Aid must pay $10.35 million in civil penalties and costs. Additionally, the Camp Hill, Pa.-based company must fund several environmental projects that further consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California.
Rite Aid will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting the retailer from committing future violations. Under the settlement, Rite Aid will pay costs including investigative expenses and civil penalties. Tuolumne County will receive approximately four thousand dollars ($4,000.00) of which two thousand dollars will go to the Tuolumne County Environmental Health Department. The funds are required to be for the exclusive use by the district attorney for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. Throughout the course of the environmental prosecution, Rite Aid has cooperated with prosecutors and investigators, and has to adopted enhanced policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of hazardous waste products in California.
Moving forward, stores will be required to retain their hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers so as to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers and to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions.
California Rite Aid stores now work with state-registered haulers to document, collect and properly dispose of hazardous waste produced through damage, spills and returns. Moreover, Rite Aid has implemented a computerized scanning system and other environmental training to manage its waste.