$11,000,000 Settlement for Improper Disposal of Hazardous and Regulated Wastes

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, along with the California Attorney General and several other district attorneys, announced an $11 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against AutoZone, Inc. after the company was accused of violating numerous hazardous waste and confidential consumer information laws.

The Riverside County DA's Office will receive $425,000 in penalties and $25,000 in investigative
and enforcement costs.

According to a news release by the Riverside County DA's office, Autozone was charged with "illegally disposing of millions of hazardous waste items, including used motor oil and automotive fluids, at landfills not authorized to accept hazardous waste."

District Attorney's Offices throughout California conducted 56 inspections of dumpster bins at 49
separate AutoZone facilities from August 2013 to September 2015. The Riverside County DA's office writes that the "investigations found numerous instances of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste." This includes things like batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices, and hundreds of discarded bottles and "other receptacles containing automotive fluids and other regulated hazardous waste."

The investigation also revealed that the AutoZone stores would allow its customers to dispose of hazardous automotive fluids and other waste items into the regular trash containers at the store's parking lots throughout California. The DA's office says it is estimated that Autozone dumped over five million hazardous waste items in California. AutoZone stores in 45 counties were affected by these environmental violations.

AutoZone was also found to have violated laws protecting vulnerable confidential consumer information by unlawfully disposing of customer records without having rendered personal information unreadable.

The settlement will require a monetary settlement of $11 million, this is split into $8.9 million for civil penalties, $1.35 million for supplemental environmental projects, and $750,000 for reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs. AutoZone will get a $1 million credit against the penalties if the company incurs at least $2 million in environmental enhancement work not required by law.

As part of the settlement, the company will also have to undergo a general compliance audit and a trash receptacle audit to ensure hazardous waste and confidential consumer information are being properly disposed of at all facilities. The results of the audit must be shared with the public. The company must also comply with 23 injunctive requirements to comply with environmental protection and confidential consumer information protection laws.

The lawsuit involved the District Attorney's offices of Riverside County, Alameda, Monterey, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Ventura, and Yolo County, as well California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the Los Angeles City Attorney.

Deputy DA Lauren Martineau of the DA's Environmental Protection Team handled the case for Riverside County.

[Read the story on the KESQ website]

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