Dec 21, 2021 - Energy & Environment

California sues Walmart for allegedly dumping hazardous waste

  A car trunk in a Walmart parking lot is loaded with two television sets and other items following Black Friday shopping on November 26, 2021 in Torrance, California.
Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

California officials filed a lawsuit against Walmart on Monday, alleging the retail giant illegally dumped hazardous waste in state landfills. Walmart said it will fight the lawsuit, which it called "unjustified," per AP.

Why it matters: The suit alleges Walmart unlawfully disposed of about 159,600 pounds in items each year over the past six years in landfills not equipped to handle toxic waste in violation of state environmental laws and regulations.

  • These allegedly include "pesticides, batteries, and various other" toxic and corrosive wastes "placed into Walmart store trash compactors, which are destined for California municipal landfills," according to the lawsuit, filed in Alameda County state court.

What they're saying: "Walmart's own audits found that the company is dumping hazardous waste at local landfills at a rate of more than one million items each year," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.

  • "[T]hese products may seep into the state's drinking water as toxic pollutants or into the air as dangerous gases," he added in the statement with other plaintiffs, which accused Walmart of being a "repeat offender" of hazardous waste laws.
  • Meredith Williams, director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, another plaintiff, added: "Despite repeated enforcements against Walmart over the past two decades, it consistently — and knowingly — fails to comply with California’s environmental protection laws."

The big picture: The lawsuit notes that in 2010, a similar lawsuit between California and Walmart was settled and that as part of this agreement, inspections beginning in 2015 allegedly found that the company had violated state laws.

  • State investigators allege they found dozens of items classified as hazardous waste, medical waste or customer records with personal information from 2015 to 2021.
  • "Yet instead of trying to come into compliance with the law, Walmart claims that its corporate sustainability achievements and its past criminal and civil penalty payments fulfill its compliance responsibilities," the attorney general's office said in its statement.

The other side: Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told Reuters that the company had met with state officials "numerous times" in attempts to avoid litigation and discuss its hazardous waste compliance.

  • "The state is demanding a level of compliance regarding waste disposal from our stores of common household products and other items that goes beyond what is required by law," he added.

For the record: The district attorneys of Alameda, Fresno, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Solano, Tulare, and Yolo counties also joined the suit.

Read the complaint in full, via DocumentCloud:

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