99 Cents Only Stores settle $2.3M hazardous waste case
SAN DIEGO — Los Angeles-based 99 Cents Only Stores will pay more than $2.36 million to resolve allegations that hazardous waste from its stores – – including 19 in San Diego County — was illegally dumped in area landfills, authorities said Tuesday.
The settlement — approved by San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt — is the culmination of a civil enforcement investigation into 99 Cents Only Stores’ improper storage, handling and disposal of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste products into company trash bins at each of its 251 stores and distribution centers in California, prosecutors said.
Instead of being sent to authorized disposal sites, hazardous waste and other contaminated materials were unlawfully transported to landfills, according to prosecutors.
Upon being notified by prosecutors of the widespread issues, 99 Cents Only Stores worked cooperatively to remedy the issue and train its employees to properly handle hazardous waste being generated through damage, spills and returns, authorities said.
The hazardous waste is now being collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly documented and accounted for.
“Our community landfills are no place for hazardous waste,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, whose office joined the case with 28 other California district and city attorneys. “Protecting the environment along with the health of our state’s citizens is paramount. Our Environmental Protection Unit did an excellent job working with our local Department of Environmental Health and other agencies to arrive at today’s judgment.”
Under the settlement, which includes a permanent injunction against 99 Cents Only Stores, the corporation must pay $1.8 million in civil penalties, $312,500 in costs and $250,000 in supplemental environmental projects.
As a result of the prosecution and settlement, California 99 Cents Only Stores have also adopted new policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of retail hazardous waste products and pharmaceutical waste into store trash bins for eventual disposal into local landfills, which are not equipped to handle such waste, prosecutors said.