Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley, along with 31 other California District Attorneys and two city attorneys, announced today that Alameda County Superior Court Judge George C. Hernandez, Jr. has ordered North Carolina-based Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, to pay $18.1 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.
“It is imperative that any business operating in the state of California dispose of hazardous wastes safely and legally,” states DA O’Malley. “Today’s action represents a major victory for our state’s environment, and I wish to commend the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and all DA’s Offices involved in this prosecution."
The judgment is the culmination of a civil enforcement action filed last Tuesday in Alameda County and led by the District Attorneys of Alameda, San Joaquin and Solano counties, claiming that more than 118 Lowe’s stores throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials over a six and a half year period. Those hazardous wastes and materials included pesticides, aerosols, paint and colorants solvents, adhesives, batteries, mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs, electronic waste and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.
Lowe’s was cooperative throughout the investigation and has adopted and implemented 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.
From 2011 to 2013, inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division and investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, along with other district attorney investigators and environmental regulators 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 wastes to local landfills throughout California that were not permitted to receive those wastes. 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 those items directly to the trash.
There are four Lowe’s stores in Alameda County and all four stores were found to be unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste.
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.