San Diego to receive part of Whole Foods $1.6M settlement over hazardous waste allegations

SAN DIEGO–¬†¬†City Attorney Mara Elliott announced Friday that her office, in coordination with other state and city agencies, reached a $1.6 million settlement with Whole Foods Market California Inc. and two related entities resolving allegations of unlawful handling and disposal of hazardous waste and materials.

The settlement –San Diego will receive $113,000 of the payout — was reached in coordination with statewide regulatory agencies and 21 other California district and city attorneys and approved by a Yolo County judge.

“California has some of the most stringent environmental protection laws in the nation, and for good reason,” City Attorney Mara Elliott said. “Companies that handle hazardous waste owe it to their customers, employees, and communities to dispose of this material safely and lawfully. My office works to ensure that all corporations, regardless of size or status, are accountable for their conduct.”

Elliott’s office and the other involved agencies alleged that over a five-year period, Whole Foods Market, Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Market Inc. and WFM-WO Inc. mishandled hazardous waste and materials, including batteries, electronic devices, ignitable liquids, aerosol products, cleaning agents and other flammable reactive toxic and corrosive materials.

The suit included Whole Foods stores in Hillcrest and University Town Center.

Under the settlement, the Whole Foods entities must pay $1,202,800 in civil penalties, $202,800 to reimburse the costs of the investigation and $237,900 to fund supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California.

The Whole Foods entities must also hire an employee to strengthen the companies’ hazardous waste programs. The three entities must also properly label, package and store hazardous waste, and ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions.

The judgment requires the companies to properly document their hazardous waste and dispose of it at authorized facilities.