LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — After an investigation that lasted nearly seven years, Walgreens will pay the city of Los Angeles and 44 other local jurisdictions $3.5 million for improper waste disposal and mishandling of customers’ records, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
A judge ruled that Walgreens improperly dumped over-the-counter and prescription medications, cleaning agents, electronic devices, batteries, aerosol products, and other hazardous waste into receptacles bound for landfills, instead of separate collection bins, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
The lawsuit also alleged Walgreens discarded customers’ personal information on a re-occurring basis without first shredding the documents, going against California’s privacy laws.
The settlement comes after a lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court by L.A. officials and prosecutors from other jurisdictions helping to bring the civil action.
There are about 100 Walgreens stores in the Los Angeles area. Statewide, there are roughly 600 stores, prosecutors said.
During the years-long investigation, authorities said they confirmed instances of Walgreens employees dumping pharmaceutical waste and corrosive materials in open trash bins, mixed with other garbage, instead of in designated containers.
The alleged negligent acts of hazardous waste and records disposal were a breach of the compliance program established in December 2012 under a $16.57 million settlement reached between Walgreens and 42 jurisdictions.
The judgment “demonstrates that even after claims of prior alleged environmental violations are settled, we and our colleagues across the state will be vigilant in ensuring major corporations actually follow through and play by the rules,” L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer said.
Under the settlement signed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, Walgreens must continue paying for a total of four compliance officers who will be tasked with ensuring that the terms of the agreement, and all disposal requirements, are met.
Stores will also be subject to periodic inspections and audits, and Walgreens will again be required to abide by the previous injunction, appropriately disposing of hazardous waste and complying with consumer protection laws, according to court documents.
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