Rite Aid Corporation will pay more than $12.3 million in penalties after dozens of California district attorney offices alleged that 600 of the company’s California stores illegally dumped hazardous materials, according to a press release from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, which joined the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the DA offices of Los Angeles, San Joaquin, and Riverside counties — and later supported by a total of 52 of the state’s DAs, as well as two city attorneys — in the wake of an investigation started by Los Angeles environmental agencies in 2009. Investigators found that stores across the state, for more than six years, dumped everything from pesticides and bleach to car solvents and pharmaceuticals in landfills. Under the settlement, the company will pay $10.35 million in civil penalties and fees, plus the costs of increased consumer protection and environmental enforcement throughout the state.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott said that the Santa Barbara DA’s Office joined the lawsuit not because any of the area’s stores had participated in the illegal dumping but because of risks the dumping could pose to all of the state’s residents and the environment. There are six Rite Aid retailers in the area: one each in Goleta, Carpinteria, and Solvang, and three in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara County’s cut of the settlement will include $18,000 in civil penalties and cost recovery for the District Attorney’s Office and $17,000 for the county’s environmental regulators.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley issued a statement on the settlement: “Thanks to the outstanding investigative and legal efforts of the district attorney inspectors and environmental prosecutors from district attorney offices around the state, we can announce this significant victory for our citizens and our natural resources. As a result of the prosecution, California Rite Aid stores have adopted enhanced policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of hazardous waste products into local landfills.”
As part of the settlement, Rite Aid — which cooperated with the investigation — has adopted stricter policies and procedures for disposing of its hazardous waste, such as separating the materials into differently labeled containers. Doing so will not only increase safety for employees and customers but will also prevent possible harmful chemical reactions, company representatives said. The stores will also use state-registered waste haulers.
Rite Aid’s senior manager of public relations, Ashley Flower, issued a statement on the settlement on behalf of the company: “We are pleased to have worked with the California District Attorneys to resolve this environmental matter and remain committed to cooperating with the environmental regulators and complying with California environmental laws.”