You may have heard in the news about the recently settled statewide environmental cases against “big box” stores and pharmacies, including Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Costco, and CVS. Our Department’s Health Hazardous Materials Division (HHMD) has been involved in these cases against the retailers for their mismanagement and improper disposal of their hazardous materials and waste. The wastes include not only damaged and returned chemical products but also “universal waste” such as computer and electronic equipment and supplies. In one case, mixing of these “cast off” wastes resulted in a fire and explosion. In this unique enforcement and prosecutorial approach, a company would literally be up against nearly every major county’s district attorney’s office within California, as well as the attorneys general at the State and Federal levels. In some instances, the violations were first discovered here in Los Angeles County by our own HHMD inspectors and investigators. Their findings were referred to our counterparts throughout the State as well as to the local city and district attorney office for multi-agency filing. Settlements have been substantial and are utilized to enhance future training and enforcement efforts.
Corporate environmental compliance has been significantly impacted by the results of these statewide cases. The companies in question have provided extensive training to their employees related to environmental, regulatory and health and safety requirements. In addition, they have implemented waste disposal procedures and waste reduction efforts (by buying alternative materials or through more efficient packaging) for all their corporate stores locally, statewide and nationally. Companies such as Home Depot and Walmart have provided the same training and procedures for the stores they operate outside of the United States.
These cases are prime examples of HHMD’s direct impact on the health and safety of the residents of Los Angeles County.