Walmart Faces State Suit Over Toxic Dumping

Dispute centers on hazardous waste put in California landfills
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 21, 2021 1:43 PM CST
California Sues Walmart Over Dumping
Black Friday shoppers wearing face masks as they wait in line last month to enter a Walmart store in Pico Rivera, Calif.   (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Walmart illegally dumps more than 1 million batteries, aerosol cans of insect killer, toxic cleaning supplies, electronic waste, latex paints, and other hazardous waste into California landfills each year, state prosecutors charged Monday in a lawsuit that the company labeled unjustified. "As we shop the brightly packed aisles there are products that will never make it into the cart—returned, damaged or pulled from the shelves for a variety of reasons," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the AP reports. When stores dispose of those products, he said, they should do it properly, as everyone else has to do. But Walmart, Bonta said, "has failed to do that on a grand scale here."

The attorney general's office settled a similar lawsuit in 2010 in which Walmart, which operates more than 300 stores in California, paid $25 million and agreed to stop dumping into local landfills that are not equipped to contain the hazardous products. It paid $1.25 million to Missouri in 2012 to settle a similar lawsuit. And in 2013, the company pleaded guilty to six federal misdemeanors of negligently discharging a pollutant into drains in 16 California counties, part of an $81 million deal that included charges in Missouri. Spokesman Randy Hargrove said Walmart will fight the "unjustified lawsuit" filed Monday.

"The state is demanding a level of compliance regarding waste disposal from our stores of common household products and other items that goes beyond what is required by law," Hargrove said. He said a judge was ready to sign off in 2018 on Walmart's compliance under the 2010 deal until the attorney general's office started a new investigation with "new rules" in a bid to force a new settlement. More than 3,800 audits overseen by the attorney general’s office since 2010 found that Walmart's trash compactors "contain at most 0.4% of items of potential concern," compared to a statewide average of 3%, Hargrove said. Bonta said Walmart's own inspections show it illegally disposes of nearly 80 tons of such waste each year.

(More hazardous waste stories.)

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