NATURAL NEWS – One of the nation’s largest drug store chains has been ordered by a California judge to fork over more than $12.3 million to settle a civil lawsuit accusing the company of illegally dumping hazardous waste in California landfills. As reported by the Los Angeles Times (LAT) and others, Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corp. was found to have improperly handled and disposed of sensitive materials in at least 600 landfills across the Golden State.
The ruling came after the district attorneys of San Joaquin, Los Angeles and Riverside counties filed a joint environmental protection lawsuit last September alleging that Rite Aid transported and dumped untold tons of “toxic, ignitable and corrosive” materials in standard landfills over the course of more than six-and-a-half years. Such materials included things like pesticides, bleach, paint, photo-processing chemicals, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceuticals and various biological hazardous waste.
Unlike normal refuse, these materials are legally required to be disposed of separately, as they can contaminate groundwater and create environmental hazards. But Rite Aid apparently disregarded the law and simply dumped these materials in regular landfills, a discovery that was made after various prosecutors, investigators and environmental health agencies launched their own investigation into the matter back in 2009.
Based on the evidence provided, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Linda L. Lofthus ruled that Rite Aid will now have to pay $10.35 million in penalties for these violations, as well as roughly $1.9 million for environmental projects to help improve consumer and environmental protections throughout California.
“This settlement changes the long-standing practices of a major corporation that illegally transported and disposed of hazardous materials from hundreds of locations throughout California,” said Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey in a recent statement announcing the settlement.
Rite Aid also released its own statement saying the company is “pleased” to have worked with the district attorneys in resolving the environmental matter, adding that it is committed to cooperating with environmental regulators in complying with California environmental law. But the company did not admit any guilt in carelessly discarding things like pool chlorine, batteries, lamp oil and medications in environmentally sensitive areas.
MANY NATIONAL CHAIN STORES HAVE BEEN SUED OVER ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION ISSUES
Rite Aid is not alone, of course, in being accused of discarding hazardous materials in landfills. Within the past several years, both Walgreens and CVS, Rite Aid’s two primary competitors, were ordered to pay out $16 million and $14 million, respectively, for similar violations. And back in 2011, home repair chain Home Depot was ordered to pay $10 million for the improper storage of hazardous chemicals, which resulted in a 55-gallon drum bursting into flames in one of its California stores.
“We’re at the tail end of these prosecutions, and companies are fully aware now,” says Deputy District Attorney Daniel Wright, who, besides his involvement in this latest case against Rite Aid, has also helped file lawsuits against both Target and Walmart for their improper storage and disposal of hazardous waste materials in the past. “I think most stores are probably in compliance now.”