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San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis disclosed that the Environmental Protection Unit, working with 31 other state District Attorneys and two city attorneys, obtained an $18.1 million settlement against North Carolina-based Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC for environmental violations.

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 6.5 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.

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.

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. 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.

Published in the June 2014 Edition of American Recycler News