Target to Pay $22.5 Million For Improperly Dumping Toxic Waste
Target Corp. (TGT), the second-largest U.S. discount retailer, will pay $22.5 million to settle claims it illegally dumped hazardous waste in California, said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis.
The settlement, announced today in an e-mailed statement from Dumanis, resolves a civil lawsuit brought by former California Attorney General Jerry Brown and as many as 20 of the state’s county district attorneys. Target must pay the $22.5 million for penalties and costs of the litigation, and to fund environmental projects, according to Dumanis.
A court order “will hold Target accountable for any failures to follow the letter of the law down the road, even after the civil penalties and costs are paid,” Dumanis said in the statement.
The suit, filed in state court in Oakland in 2009, claimed that 290 Target stores throughout California had been served since 2001 with more than 300 notices for disposing of hazardous materials, such as flammable liquids and toxic chemicals, at landfills not designated to receive them.
Under California law, Target must properly dispose of products such as bleach, paints and pesticides that are returned, or damaged during shipping or stocking, according to the complaint.
“Target has a comprehensive program to ensure our handling, storage, disposal and documentation of hazardous materials complies with California law, and we train our store teams regularly as part of this program,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “We will continue to devote substantial resources in order to remain a responsible corporate steward of the environment.”
The lawsuit against Minneapolis-based Target stems from an investigation started in 2006 by Brown, a Democrat who was elected governor of California last year, and the district attorneys. The suit claimed Target illegally dumped the products at sites in Sacramento, Alameda and Los Angeles counties, among others.
Target said when the case was filed that it was disappointed because it had negotiated with the state for almost three years in an attempt to resolve the claims.
Hazardous waste generated by California Target stores through damaged products, spills and customer returns must be collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly documented and accounted for, according to Dumanis. While Target stores have begun shipments of hazardous waste every 30 days, before the investigation those wastes were largely unaccounted for and, according to employees, were routinely unlawfully disposed, Dumanis said.
The case is California v. Target, RG-09457686, Superior Court of California, Alameda County (Oakland).