California accuses Walmart of illegal toxic waste disposal | The Fresno Bee Walmart illegally dumped batteries, other toxic waste throughout California, state says


By Dale Kasler


California officials sued Walmart on Monday, accusing the retail giant of illegally dumping hazardous waste at landfills in the Sacramento region and elsewhere in the state for the past six years.

In a lawsuit led by Attorney General Rob Bonta, the state said Walmart violated California’s environmental laws by dumping batteries, insecticides, aerosol cans, e-waste, latex paint and more at a host of landfills not equipped to handle toxic waste.

The lawsuit also said Walmart — which operates 300 stores and distribution centers in California — dumped confidential customer information at these landfills.

It marks the second time in a little more than a decade that California has tangled with Walmart over waste dumping. In 2010, when former Gov. Jerry Brown was attorney general, the retailer paid more than $25 million to settle dumping allegations brought by the state.

But starting in 2015, California inspectors, looking through trash compactors taken from Walmart stores, discovered the retailer was dumping hazardous waste illegally, according to Bonta’s office. The inspectors found illegal waste twice in trash compactors in Sacramento County and once in Fresno County, for instance, the suit says.

“Since it won’t clean up its act, we’re taking Walmart to court,” he said.

California accuses Walmart of illegal toxic waste disposal | The Fresno Bee Walmart illegally dumped batteries, other toxic waste throughout California, state says

Bonta said it took six years to investigate the new allegations because officials wanted to be sure they had a strong case before going to court. Nancy O’Malley, the Alameda County district attorney, added that officials have notified Walmart about the alleged violations and were trying to get the company to comply with the law.

“Litigation is always the last resort,” she said.

In late 2020, a state appeals court ordered Walmart to cooperate with a new investigation into Walmart’s waste-disposal practices. Walmart was trying to quash subpoenas issued by the Alameda DA’s office. In its ruling, the court said Walmart acknowledged sending some hazardous waste to landfills but insisted the materials “did not pose a substantial risk to human health or the environment and was not indicative of systemic problems in Walmart’s disposal practices that could justify a statewide investigation.”

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company will defend itself against the lawsuit.

“We have met with the state numerous times and walked them through our industry-leading hazardous waste compliance programs in an effort to avoid litigation. Instead, they filed this unjustified lawsuit. The state is demanding a level of compliance regarding waste disposal from our stores of common house-hold products and other items that goes beyond what is required by law.”

He added that “Walmart’s compactors are far cleaner than the state average.”

Bonta, however, said the dumping was widespread, totaling an estimated 159,600 pounds of toxic substances a year.

“We’re not talking about a few batteries,” he said.

Dr. Meredith Williams, the director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, added: “Our hazardous waste laws are clear. Other companies manage to comply.”

District attorneys in Sacramento, Yolo, Fresno, Tulare, San Joaquin, Alameda and six other counties joined in the lawsuit, along with the Department of Toxic Substances Control. The suit cites alleged violations of the state’s Hazardous Waste Control Law, Medical Waste Management Act, Customer Personal Information Law and Unfair Competition Law.

This story was originally publishedDecember 20, 2021 11:10 AM.

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Dale Kasler
twitter emailphone916-321-1066Dale Kasler covers climate change, the environment, economics and the convoluted world of California water. He also covers major enterprise stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.