SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Target Corp. was ordered Thursday to pay $22.5 million in penalties and costs to counties and cities throughout California -- including San Diego -- for improperly disposing hazardous products.
An Oakland judge directed the nation's second-largest discount retailer to make the payments as part of a settlement reached with the California Attorney General's Office, county district attorneys and city attorneys in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Target will pay $17 million in penalties and about $3 million in costs to prosecuting agencies, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Doty.
The court permanent injunction is the culmination of a lawsuit filed in Alameda County two years ago, alleging that about 240 Target stores and distribution centers in California -- including 25 in San Diego -- illegally dumped pesticides, paint, aerosols, pool chemicals and other flammable, toxic and corrosive materials into the environment.
"This settlement is only the first step in Target's obligation to clean up its act," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
"A permanent injunction, signed by the court, will hold Target accountable for any failures to follow the letter of the law down the road, even after the civil penalties and costs are paid," she said.
"Thanks to the hard work of our Environmental Unit and fellow prosecutors across California, Target stores in San Diego County are no longer routinely and systematically dumping hazardous waste into the environment."
Under the settlement, Target must pay $22.5 million for civil penalties and costs, and to fund several supplemental environmental projects.
As a result of the prosecution, many California Target stores have already adopted new policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of hazardous waste into store trash compactors and drains.
Stores are now required to maintain their hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers so as to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers and ensure that incompatible wastes, such as ammonia and chlorine, do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions.
"This case is about enforcing the law," said San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
He read from a 2002 police report which detailed liquid pool chlorine being thrown in a trash compactor at a Target store, sending four employees to the hospital when they were overcome by caustic fumes.
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Tim Patterson said investigators in 2009 found hazardous waste in 11 out of 11 loads headed from Target stores to local landfills.
Dumanis said Target was more concerned about its bottom line than following the law.
"A corporate giant has been held accountable for its actions," she said.
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