SAN DIEGO -- Lowe’s Home Centers has agreed to an $18.1 million settlement for environmental violations across California.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis said today that the Environmental Protection Unit, working with 31 other state District Attorneys and two city attorneys, obtained the settlement against the North Carolina-based company.
The judgment is the culmination of a civil enforcement action filed in Alameda County and led by the District Attorneys of Alameda and joined by San Diego and other counties claiming that more than 118 Lowe’s stores throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous waste and materials over a six and a half year period. The material included pesticides, aerosols, paint and colorants solvents, adhesives, batteries, mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs, electronic waste and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.
“Safely handling dangerous waste is paramount for all businesses in California,” Dumanis said. “Our environmental protection team did an outstanding job prosecuting this case and collaborating with other agencies to arrive at today’s multi-million dollar judgment.”
Between 2011 and 2013, investigators from the Alameda and San Diego County District Attorney’s offices and from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, along with regulators from San Diego Department of Environmental Health and others statewide, conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Lowe’s stores.
The inspections revealed that Lowe’s was routinely and systematically sending hazardous waste to local landfills throughout California that were not permitted to receive that waste. The inspections also revealed that at some Lowe’s stores, instead of recycling batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs that the company had gathered from customers at store recycling kiosks as part of a program to responsibly reduce waste, employees were unlawfully discarding these items directly into the trash.
There are eight Lowe’s stores in San Diego County and all eight stores were found to be unlawfully disposing hazardous waste, including numerous containers of paint, fluorescent bulbs, batteries, and aerosol cans.
Under the final judgment, Lowe’s must pay $12.85 million in civil penalties and costs. An additional $2.1 million will fund supplemental environmental projects furthering environmental protection and enforcement in California, and Lowe’s will fund hazardous waste minimization projects of $3.2 million. The retailer will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.
Lowe’s was cooperative throughout the investigation and has adopted enhanced policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of hazardous waste products in California. Stores are 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. Hazardous waste produced by California Lowe’s stores through damage, spills and returns is being collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly documented and accounted for.