SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Prosecutors announced Monday that a judge has ordered all Minnesota-based Target Corp. stores in California, including 19 in San Diego County, to stop routinely dumping hazardous waste that ends up in landfills.

A civil enforcement lawsuit was filed last year in Alameda County, alleging that more than 240 Target stores throughout the state handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials improperly over a five-year period, including pesticides, paint, aerosols, pool chemicals and other toxic and corrosive materials.

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office joined 19 other California District Attorneys, the state Attorney General and the city attorneys in San Diego and Los Angeles in the lawsuit.

"It's time for Target to clean up its act," said San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "The corporation has been fighting this losing battle for too long, and the California environment is worse off because of it."

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said his office was pleased to work with Dumanis' office and other law enforcement statewide to stop the illegal dumping.

"The message needs to be sent that we will stand together in protecting our communities," Goldsmith said.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven Brick issued a preliminary injunction on Friday, prohibiting Target and its employees from illegally disposing of hazardous waste; using unregistered haulers to transport hazardous waste; transporting hazardous waste without the required manifests; and illegally managing and disposing of universal waste such as batteries, telephones and computer and electronic equipment.

Prosecutors contend Target routinely ignored the law to cut costs, and failed to develop and implement an effective program to ensure that employees properly identify defective, damaged and leaking products containing hazardous materials and toxic chemicals as hazardous waste and dispose of them properly rather than throw them into company compactors.

Rather than being sent to authorized disposal sites, tons of hazardous wastes and contaminated materials were crushed along with discarded merchandise and garbage in Target's compactors, and sent to area landfills, prosecutors allege.

The investigation began in 2005 with the help of the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and other environmental health agencies statewide.

The complaint filed last year also requests that Target forfeits profits generated by cutting corners and pay civil penalties from their violations.