Lowe's has been ordered to pay $18 million for illegally disposing hazardous waste, including pesticides, batteries, fluorescent bulbs and other toxic materials, as a result of a civil enforcement action filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, San Jose Mercury News reports.
According to the suit, more than 100 Lowe's stores throughout California routinely sent items such as spilled or returned paint or damaged batteries to local landfills that were not permitted to receive the materials. The suit claims the company also took used batteries and used fluorescent light bulbs collected from its stores' recycling programs and threw them in the garbage.
The hazardous dumping violations were found by investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and environmental regulators who conducted inspections of Dumpsters belonging to Lowe's stores.
“The support of statewide hazardous waste prosecutions brought by city attorneys and district attorneys is a top priority for the Office of Criminal Investigations,” said Reed Sato, DTSC Chief Counsel. “OCI will always provide assistance for these important efforts to obtain hazardous waste management compliance by the retail industry.”
The final judgment stipulates that Lowe's pay $12.85 million in civil penalties and costs and $3 million for hazardous waste minimization projects. An additional $2 million will fund supplemental environmental projects aimed at consumer protection.
"The dangers inherent in dumping hazardous waste cannot be understated, it is absolutely essential that we protect our environment for future generations," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
Lowe's was cooperative throughout the investigation, and has adopted enhanced policies and procedures such as keeping hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers.
Nevertheless, Lowe’s recently made it into the top 10 of the list of the 100 Most Loved Companies, determined by global opinion research consultancy APCO Insight. The findings were generated by APCO Insight’s Emotional LinkingSM model, which measures consumers’ emotional attachment to brands.
Last month, the DTSC challenged manufacturers of certain products containing chemicals of concern to make their products safer and dramatically change the way consumers are protected from potential toxic harm. As a key step in its Safer Consumer Products regulations, DTSC announced three draft “priority products” — Children’s foam padded sleeping products and furniture containing TDCPP (chlorinated TRIS); Spray Polyurethane foam systems containing unreacted di-isocyanates (dg); and paint strippers containing methylene chloride — and asked manufacturers to find a safer alternative.