99 Cents Only to pay over $2 million to settle hazardous waste charges

Accused of improperly disposing of drug and other hazardous waste, 99 Cents Only to pay over $2 million

99 Cents Only Stores has agreed to pay more than $2 million to settle accusations that its operations improperly stored, handled and disposed of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste.

An investigation found that the retailer's 251 stores and distribution centers in California were allegedly tossing hazardous materials into company trash bins and then disposing of the contaminated waste into area landfills instead of authorized sites, according to a statement from L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer's office.

"This judgment protects the environment and public health," said Feuer, who announced the settlement along with 29 other California district and city attorneys.

99 Cents Only said in a statement that it is "pleased to have achieved an amicable settlement."

"Since then, our company has improved its waste management protocols and has invested significant resources to ensure continued compliance with all state requirements," the company said. "We have agreed to go even further and retain a third-party consultant to monitor our stores periodically as well as implement a handheld scanning program to identify hazardous wastes at all California stores and ensure their proper handling and disposal."

Under the settlement, the City of Commerce company admits no wrongdoing but agreed to pay $1.8 million in civil penalties, $312,500 in costs and $250,000 in supplemental environmental projects. The company also adopted new procedures to eliminate the disposal of hazardous products into store trash cans that will go to local landfills.

The settlement was announced one day after California prosecutors said Safeway Inc. had agreed to pay nearly $10 million to settle allegations that its grocery stores improperly threw away hazardous materials such as medicine and also failed to protect confidential customer medical information.

California authorities have increased their focus in recent years on curbing environmental violations among retailers.

In 2011, Target Corp. agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a multiyear government investigation into the alleged dumping of hazardous waste. A year earlier, Wal-Mart said it would pay $27.6 million to settle charges that it improperly handled and disposed of hazardous materials.

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