A California Superior Court judge has ordered Lowe’s Home Centers LLC to pay $18.1 million as part of a settlement in a civil environmental case made by more than 30 county district attorneys in California.
The settlement, signed April 1, 2014, by Alameda County Superior Court Judge George C. Hernandez Jr., follows the prosecution made by Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach and 31 other county district attorneys and two city attorneys in California.
The civil enforcement action, filed in Alameda County, alleges that more than 118 Lowe’s stores operating in California unlawfully handled and disposed of hazardous waste and materials over a 6-and-a-half-year period. The waste included pesticides, aerosols, paint and colorant solvents, adhesives, batteries, fluorescent bulbs containing mercury, electronic products and other toxic, ignitable or corrosive materials.
According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (TSCA), Lowe’s was cooperative throughout the investigation and has adopted policies and procedures designed to eliminate the improper disposal of hazardous waste products.
Some of the steps being taken include individual stores retaining 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. Also, hazardous waste produced by California Lowe’s stores as the result of damage, spills and returns will be collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly accounted for and documented.
From 2011 to 2013, inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division and investigators from the California TSCA and other district attorney investigators and environmental regulators, conducted a series of waste inspections of Dumpsters belonging to Lowe’s. The inspections revealed that Lowe’s was routinely sending hazardous wastes to local landfills throughout California that were not permitted to receive those wastes, the investigators say. The inspections also revealed that at some Lowe’s stores, instead of recycling batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs 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 to the trash.
Under the final judgment, Lowe’s must pay $12.85 million in civil penalties and costs. An additional $2.075 million will fund supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California, and Lowe’s will fund hazardous waste minimization projects of $3.175 million. The retailer will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.