Walgreens To Pay L.A., Other Jurisdictions For Waste Disposal Violations

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Walgreens will be paying the city of Los Angeles and 44 other local jurisdictions $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit connected to improper waste disposal and mishandling of customers' records -- in violation of an injunction issued as part of an earlier settlement – prosecutors announced today.

Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Co. was sued earlier this year over numerous alleged instances of dumping over-the-counter and prescription medications, electronic devices, batteries, aerosol products, cleaning agents and other hazardous waste into receptacles bound for landfills, instead of separate collection locations, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.

The city joined prosecutors from the other jurisdictions in bringing the civil action, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

In addition to waste disposal violations, the plaintiffs alleged Walgreens engaged in re-occurring practices of discarding customers' personal information without first shredding the documents -- counter to California's privacy laws.

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.

That suit stemmed from a nearly seven-year investigation in which authorities confirmed instances of Walgreens employees dumping pharmaceutical waste and corrosive materials in open trash bins, mixed with other garbage, instead of in designated containers.

There are about 100 Walgreens stores in the Los Angeles area. Statewide, there are roughly 600 stores, prosecutors said.

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,'' 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.

Photo: Getty Images

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