Discount retailer 99 Cents Only Stores became the latest company to agree to pay millions of dollars to counties and cities across the state to settle claims that its California locations illegally dumped toxic retail waste.
The $2.36-million San Joaquin Superior Court judgment was announced Tuesday. It came a day after authorities said supermarket giant Safeway agreed to pay nearly $10 million to settle claims its California stores illegally dumped household chemicals and medicines, including cleaners, hair dyes and nail polish.
Much of the latest award – about $1.8 million in civil penalties – will be distributed to counties with 99 Cents Only Store locations to promote environmental prosecutions in those jurisdictions, said Diane Taira, a Solano County deputy district attorney in her office’s Consumer and Environmental Crimes Unit.
Solano County was one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles-based discount franchise. Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties shared part of the judgment, as did Fresno, Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. In all, 29 California cities and counties are part of the settlement.
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“Our primary goal is compliance,” Taira said. “We’re doing our best to keep California’s environment safe.”
Authorities first began talking to 99 Cents Only in 2013 about better defining its disposal policies and procedures, Taira said. State investigators on so-called dumpster dives found that store employees often illegally put the retail waste in trash bins and area landfills.
In a statement, Solano County district attorney’s officials said state-regulated haulers now collect the waste and take it to proper disposal sites.
99 Cents Only Stores, in a statement, said many of the claims settled in the judgment happened before 2012 and that the company has since improved its waste management protocols. The company also hired an outside consultant to periodically monitor its stores and implemented a handheld scanning program to identify hazardous wastes at its California stores and ensure their proper handling and disposal.
Under the settlement’s terms, 99 Cents Only must also put in place enhanced compliance efforts, Taira said.
The Los Angeles-based company has 251 stores and distribution centers across California.
“Often retailers have resolved these matters. Some are under investigation. Others have instituted compliance programs,” said David Irey, a prosecutor in the Yolo County DA’s Office and a veteran of environmental prosecutions, after the Safeway announcement on Monday.
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.
Settlements by retailers with California operations since 2010:
▪ Wal-Mart, $27.7 million, 2010
▪ Target, $22.5 million, 2011
▪ Lowe’s, $18.1 million, 2014
▪ Walgreens, $16.6 million, 2012
▪ CVS, $13.8 $13.75 million, 2012
▪ Safeway, $9.9 million, 2015
▪ Rite Aid, $9.4 million, 2013 2019
▪ Costco, $3.5 million, 2012
▪ Save Mart, $2.6 $2.55 million, 2013
▪ 99 Cents Only, $2.4 million, 2015
Source: California Department of Toxic Substances Control