Alameda County District Attorney's Office
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

Meet DA Nancy E. O'Malley

Safeway Inc. to Pay $9.87 Million

Safeway Inc. to Pay $9.87 Million Settlement for Environmental Violations

Stores Illegally Dumped Hazardous Wastes and Confidential Customer Medical Information

District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley, together with 42 other California District Attorneys and two city attorneys, announced today that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne S. Carvill has ordered the Pleasanton-based Safeway Inc. to pay $9.87 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.

The judgment is the culmination of a civil enforcement lawsuit filed in Alameda County on December 31, 2014 and led by the District Attorneys of Alameda, Orange, San Joaquin, Solano, San Francisco, Riverside, Ventura and Yolo, claiming that more than 500 Safeway stores and distribution centers, including its other brands, Von’s, Pavilions and Pak ‘n Save, throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials over a seven and one half year period, including over-the-counter medications, pharmaceuticals, aerosol products, ignitable liquids, batteries, electronic devices and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials. The settlement also resolves allegations that Safeway unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information without preserving the confidentiality of the information therein. All 30 Safeway stores in Alameda County were involved in the violations.

“This investigation touched nearly every county in California, and today’s results could not have been reached without the collaborative work of the many offices involved,” states DA O’Malley. “Today’s settlement marks a victory for our state’s environment as well as for the security and privacy of confidential patient information throughout California.”

The investigation into Safeway’s practices began after discovery of improper shipments of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste to Safeway’s distribution centers through its reverse logistics program. During 2012 and 2013, inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division along with other district attorney investigators and environmental regulators statewide, conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Safeway stores. The inspections revealed that Safeway was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills, and was failing to take measures to protect the privacy of their pharmacy customers’ confidential medical information. Upon being notified by prosecutors of the widespread issues, Safeway worked cooperatively to remedy the issue, enhance its environmental compliance program and train its employees to properly handle such waste.

Pursuant to the terms of the Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction, California Safeway stores have adopted new policies and procedures designed to eliminate the improper disposal of retail hazardous waste products and pharmaceutical waste into store trash bins for eventual disposal into local landfills. In addition, the corporation must pay $9.87 million in civil penalties, costs and supplemental environmental projects. Under the terms of the settlement, Safeway must also continue its First Assistant Store Manager Program designed to address environmental compliance at the store level and conduct annual store audits.

Contact: Assistant District Attorney Ken Mifsud
(510) 777-2230

Alameda County District Attorney’s Office

Download pdf of press release

Posted on Jan 5, 2015