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Walgreens Ordered to Pay $16.6M Settlement for Dumping Hazardous Waste, Records

Drugstore chain with a store in San Anselmo faced a lawsuit brought by the Marin District Attorney's Office and 44 others claiming more than 600 of its stores in California illegally disposed of hazardous waste.

An Alameda County judge ordered Walgreen Co. on Thursday to pay $16.57 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that more than 600 of the chain's stores in California, including four Walgreens in Marin, illegally dumped hazardous waste and unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information.

Under terms of the settlement, Walgreen Co. must pay $20,000 in civil penalties and cost recovery to the Marin County District Attorney's Office, as well as $4,000 to the waste management division of the county's public works department. There are four Walgreens stores in Marin: at 227 Shoreline Hwy. in Mill Valley, 820 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in San Anselmo and 830 Third St. and 155 Northgate One in San Rafael.

In ordering Walgreen Co. to pay up, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill concluded a civil enforcement lawsuit filed in Alameda County in June 2012 that was led by the District Attorneys of Alameda, San Joaquin, Solano, Monterey, Riverside, and Yolo, and the City Attorney of Los Angeles.

The legal action followed inspections of trash bins at Walgreens stores around the state. In the fall of 2009, investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and local environmental health agencies (CUPAs) conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Walgreens’ stores, officials said. 

The inspections found that Walgreens "unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials over a six and one half year period, including pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical and bio hazardous wastes and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials."

The lawsuit also alleged that Walgreens stores "unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information without preserving the confidentiality of the information therein. 

"California Walgreens’ stores have adopted enhanced policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of hazardous waste products and confidential customer information records into store dumpsters," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said in a statement.

Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham noted that the company did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement.

"But like a number of other major retailers who faced similar questions in California, we agreed to settle this case to avoid the time and expense of protracted litigation," he said in a statement. "We are fully committed to continuing to improve our waste disposal practices.”

“Since 2007, we have invested millions of dollars to develop and implement a comprehensive waste management program at all of our California stores to properly handle and dispose of discarded, damaged or expired consumer products that are covered by hazardous waste regulations in California," he continued. "We are continuing to strengthen our programs to ensure that these procedures are properly followed."

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