RIVERSIDE – Home improvement retailer Lowe’s will pay $18 million to settle an environmental lawsuit filed by 32 counties, including Riverside, over the illegal disposal of hazardous wastes, prosecutors announced today.
Riverside County will receive $650,375 under the settlement, according to D.A.’s office spokesman John Hall. He said the county is home to 10 Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and one distribution center.
The Mooresville, N.C.-based chain was sued in Alameda County Superior Court last year after a statewide investigation determined that employees at many of its 118 California stores had regularly discarded aerosols, batteries, electronics, paints, solvents and other combustible or corrosive materials in containers bound for landfills not equipped to process or store the substances.
Under a settlement certified Tuesday by Alameda Superior Court Judge George Hernandez, the retailer agreed to pay $12.85 million in penalties, as well as $2 million toward environmental projects intended to enhance consumer protections and $3.17 million toward hazardous waste minimization efforts.
Investigators alleged that over a roughly six-year span, Lowe’s employees neglected to segregate potentially hazardous materials from other rubbish.
Under state law, stores are required to maintain bins into which workers deposit items that contain chemicals or other substances considered an environmental risk or that can be recycled.
Lowe’s was found to be out of compliance during inspections conducted by personnel from various D.A.’s offices and representatives from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
”The inspections revealed that Lowe’s was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills throughout California that were not permitted to receive those wastes,” according to a Riverside County District Attorney’s Office statement.
As part of the civil settlement, the retailer agreed to immediately implement corrective measures.