Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, together with 51 other California district attorneys and two city attorneys, announced that San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Linda L. Lofthus approved a settlement under which Rite Aid Corporation will pay $12,324,000 in settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.
The judgment marks the culmination of a lawsuit claiming that more than 600 California Rite Aid stores unlawfully handled and disposed of hazardous wastes and materials over a six-and-a-half year period. This case originated during the fall of 2009 and expanded when prosecutors, investigators and environmental regulators statewide came together to conduct a series of waste inspections at Rite Aid facilities and at landfills throughout California. During the investigation a number of waste inspections were conducted on the Rite Aid facilities in Tulare County.
The statewide inspections revealed that during a six-and-a-half year period, Rite Aid transported hazardous waste and disposed it into local landfills. The hazardous products allegedly discarded included pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical and bio hazardous wastes and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.
Under the final judgment, Rite Aid must pay $10.35 million in civil penalties and costs. Additionally, the company must fund several environmental projects that further consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California. Rite Aid will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting the retailer from committing future violations. Under the settlement, Rite Aid will pay $191,875 in civil penalties and cost recovery to Tulare County Environmental Health Services and $90,000 in civil penalties and cost recovery to the Office of the District Attorney, County of Tulare.
Rite Aid was cooperative, and has adopted enhanced policies and procedures to mitigate the risk of improper disposal of hazardous waste products in California.
Moving forward, stores will be 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 Rite Aid stores through damage, spills and returns is now being collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly documented and accounted for. Rite Aid has implemented a computerized scanning system and other environmental training to manage its waste.
In Tulare County, this case was handled by Deputy District Attorney Rodney Blaco from the Consumer Protection Unit and investigated by District Attorney Investigator John Lee, who was assisted in conducting the local waste inspections by personnel from Tulare County Environmental Health Services, and investigators from both the Yolo and San Joaquin district attorneys’ offices.