PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — The Santa Monica Fire Department is expected to receive $6,000 from drug-store chain Rite Aid as part of a multi-million-dollar court settlement in which some 600 stores allegedly mishandled and improperly disposed of hazardous materials.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Daniel Wright of the Environmental Law Section said Tuesday that the Rite Aid Corporation transported hazardous waste and disposed of it in local landfills during a six-and-a-half year period. The hazardous products allegedly discarded included pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical and bio hazardous wastes and other toxic, flammable and corrosive materials.
Rite Aid was ordered to pay more than $12.3 million to settle the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier this month by the district attorneys of L.A., San Joaquin and Riverside counties. In all, 52 district attorneys from across the state and two city attorneys joined the environmental protection lawsuit.
The case began with an investigation in the fall of 2009 by local environmental health agencies and expanded with a series of waste inspections at Rite Aid facilities and landfills across the state, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The SMFD is scheduled to receive money as part of the settlement because it is the agency in Santa Monica that conducts hazardous waste inspections, Wright said.
Under the final judgment, Rite Aid must pay $10.35 million in civil penalties and costs. Additionally, the Camp Hill, Pa.-based company must fund several environmental projects that further consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California.
Rite Aid will pay $332,000 in civil penalties and cost recovery to Los Angeles County environmental regulators and $1,325,000 in civil penalties and cost recovery to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for the enforcement of consumer protection laws.
A permanent injunction prohibits Rite Aid from reinstating the illegal practices, Wright said. Rite Aid has cooperated with prosecutors and investigators throughout the case.
Wright said high turnover rates amongst employees may have been partly to blame for the lack of proper disposal.
Rite Aid will now use a scanner system that will tell employees if a substance is toxic and how to handle it. Stores will also be required to retain their hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers. It will also ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions.