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Walmart is facing a California lawsuit over dangerous dumping claims

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A lawsuit by the California Attorney General and a Dozens of district attorneys allege that Walmart has dumped nearly 80 tons of hazardous waste and confidential customer information in California landfills each year for the past five years.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court, accuses the nation’s largest retailer of dumping lithium batteries, insecticides, aerosol cans, cleaning supplies, electronic waste, paint and LED light bulbs, and confidential customer information in landfills across the state at 300 Walmart branches.

The lawsuit asks a judge to impose unspecified fines on Walmart, which had nearly $560 billion in sales in fiscal 2021.

In a statement, a Walmart spokesman called the lawsuit “unmeritorious” and said the company fulfilled the obligations of a 2010 court-supervised settlement to better manage waste disposal.

“The state is requiring a level of compliance regarding waste disposal from our warehouses for common household products and other items that goes beyond what is required by law,” spokeswoman Jacquelyn Cook said. “We intend to defend the company.”

She added that Walmart is not aware of any evidence to support the claims that customer information was improperly disposed of. “We take our customer data seriously and have processes in place to protect it,” Cook said.

In response to a civil enforcement action brought by the state in 2010 over Walmart’s disposal of bleach, pesticides and other hazardous waste, Walmart agreed to a set order requiring the payment of $24.6 million in penalties and the obligation included stopping the illegal dumping of hazardous waste in California landfills, the lawsuit said.

This case was sparked when an investigator from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health spotted a Walmart employee pouring bleach down a drain.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that nearly 60 inspections of Walmart trash compactors in 13 counties dating back to 2015 continued to find hazardous waste, medical waste and “customer records containing personally identifiable information.”

The hazardous waste was generated by retail stores, Walmart pharmacies, auto repair centers, claims departments and collection boxes for batteries and used cell phones, according to the lawsuit. It also came from customer-facing trash cans, rubbish bins for new stores or stores being remodeled, and products that broke or spilled, as well as items damaged enough to have to be thrown out, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit does not specify what type of customer information was disposed of in the landfills, but says state law requires companies to render such information unreadable prior to disposal.

“If a person throws away a battery or a half-empty bottle of hairspray, we might think it’s not a big deal,” says Atty. General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “But when we’re talking about tens of thousands of batteries, cleaning supplies and other hazardous waste, the impact on our environment and communities can be huge.”

Meredith Williams, director of the State Department of Toxic Substances Control, also shot Walmart.

“Despite repeated enforcement actions against Walmart over the past two decades, it consistently and knowingly violates California environmental protection laws,” she said in a statement.

Walmart says it has met obligations under its 2010 hazardous waste regulation for many years, but now the state is imposing stricter rules on the retail company.

“The attorney general’s office opened a new investigation with new rules in the hope that Walmart would finalize another settlement that would require another significant financial payment,” said Cook, the company’s spokesman.

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-12-20/walmart-california-lawsuit-alleges-hazardous-waste-dumping-landfills Walmart is facing a California lawsuit over dangerous dumping claims

Tom Vazquez

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