Safeway Ordered to Pay $9.87 Million for Toxic Waste Violations

Safeway Inc., which operates seven stores in Santa Barbara County, has been ordered to pay a $9.87 million settlement for violating California environmental laws after a collaborative lawsuit was filed by 41 of the state’s district attorneys, Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Monday.

An Alameda County judge ruled the Pleasanton-based grocery giant, which runs more than 500 Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, and Pak’n’Save brand stores and distribution centers across the state, improperly handled and disposed of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste generated from spills and customer returns.

Safeway Inc. will distribute the settlement statewide, paying $8,750 in civil costs, penalties, and cost recovery to the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office and $17,500 to Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott could not say whether or not county stores were acting in violation of the law because they were not specifically investigated; however, the ruling still affects area outlets. “The settlement applies to all Safeway stores statewide, and all stores in Santa Barbara County are subject to this stipulated judgment,” she said.

The allegations, led by DAs from Alameda and Orange counties, came after investigations revealed that Safeway had improperly shipped hazardous and pharmaceutical waste to distribution centers through its reverse logistic program. Investigators further found that Safeway was sending the hazardous materials to landfills that were unable to properly receive such waste.

Authorities said Monday’s ruling will mean a change in Safeway’s practices, with California stores adopting new policies and procedures to better dispose of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste products. Safeway stores must also continue their First Assistant Store Manager Program designed to address environmental compliance at the store level and conduct annual audits.

“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the district and city attorneys throughout the state, businesses operating in California are well aware of their environmental responsibilities, and our environment is better protected as a result,” said Dudley.

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