OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Retailer Bed Bath & Beyond will pay $1.49 million to settle a lawsuit over allegations the company illegally disposed of hazardous waste at local landfills, authorities announced Wednesday.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley along with 30 other California district attorneys and the Los Angeles City Attorney announced the settlement against the New Jersey-based retailer, accused of disposing of batteries, electronic devices, ignitable liquids, and other flammable, toxic, and corrosive materials at local landfills in violation of environmental laws.
The investigation into Bed Bath & Beyond began in Ventura County in December of 2015 after a fire broke out at an Oxnard trash and recycling facility. The fire was attributed to a load of waste from the trash compactor of the Oxnard Bed Bath & Beyond store. Investigators determined the trash contained several electronic items and hazardous waste, including lithium batteries and a can of lighter fluid.
In April 2016, another fire broke out in the Oxnard store’s trash compactor, and investigators again discovered regulated waste such as batteries, broken fluorescent bulbs and discarded electronic items.
Following those incidents, undercover inspections of Bed Bath & Beyond stores across the state revealed that the retailer had been illegally sending regulated hazardous wastes from stores to local landfills throughout California, including three stores in Alameda County, according to the lawsuit.
“The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office remains committed to protecting the natural resources of the county and the state. When businesses, large or small, illegally dispose of hazardous waste, not only do they violate the law, but they put the environment at risk,” O’Malley said in a prepared statement. “We will not stand idly by while corporations disregard the safety and well-being of the environment.”
The lawsuit was filed last month and claimed more than 200 Bed Bath & Beyond stores throughout the state – including Cost Plus World Market, buybuy BABY, Harmon, and Harmon Face Values – unlawfully handled, transported and disposed of regulated waste at local landfills not permitted to receive those wastes.
After being notified of the probe, Bed Bath & Beyond cooperated with investigators and agreed to to dedicate additional resources towards environmental compliance, including by performing regular self-audits of its compactors and waste bins, O’Malley’s office said.
Under terms of the settlement, Bed Bath & Beyond must pay $1,327,500 in civil penalties and as reimbursement of investigation and prosecution costs, and an additional $171,250 to fund projects furthering environmental enforcement in California. The retailer is under a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.