$11 Million Settlement Announced to Address Illegal Dumping of Hazardous Waste

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley today announced an $11 million settlement against AutoZone, Inc. (AutoZone) to resolve allegations that the company violated state laws governing hazardous waste, and hazardous materials, by routinely and illegally disposing of used motor oil, automotive fluids, and other hazardous wastes into company waste bins destined for municipal landfills not authorized to accept hazardous waste. The lawsuit also resolves allegations that AutoZone routinely failed to shred customer records containing confidential information before disposing of those items into the trash.

“The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office remains steadfast in our effort to ensure all businesses operating within the county and the state comply with the laws and regulations designed to protect the health of our environment,” states DA O’Malley. “When companies ignore or violate these laws, they put our precious natural resources at risk. I thank the Attorney General and my District Attorney colleagues for joining in the ongoing effort to protect our soil, groundwater and oceans from highly dangerous contaminants.” In November of 2016, District Attorney O’Malley announced a $9.86 million statewide settlement with O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for similar violations of California’s hazardous waste laws.

“AutoZone violated California law by improperly disposing of millions of toxic and hazardous waste items. It endangered our environment and public health,” said Attorney General Becerra. “AutoZone must now pay the price for breaking the law. The California Department of Justice is committed to investigating and holding accountable violators of our laws meant to protect California’s environment and communities.”

AutoZone is a retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts, accessories, and engine additives in North America. It owns or operates approximately 600 retail stores and a distribution center.

The investigation of AutoZone was initiated and led by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Unit. From August 2013 through September 2015, inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division, investigators from other district attorney offices, and environmental regulators statewide, conducted a series of undercover inspections of waste bins originating at 49 separate AutoZone facilities. These inspections found numerous instances of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste including used oil, automotive fluids, batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices, and other regulated hazardous waste. These investigative efforts revealed that AutoZone routinely allowed its customers to deposit hazardous automotive fluids and other waste items into regular trash containers in AutoZone stores’ parking lots throughout California. AutoZone facilities in 45 counties in California were found by the prosecuting offices to have committed these environmental violations. AutoZone also violated laws protecting vulnerable confidential consumer information by unlawfully disposing of customer records without having rendered personal information unreadable.

When AutoZone officials were notified by the prosecutors of the unlawful disposals, they cooperated and quickly responded to enhance company policies and procedures designed to eliminate the improper disposal of used oil, used oil filters and hazardous waste products in California. Stores are required to properly manage used oil and automotive oil filters, and to retain their hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers so as to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers and to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions. Hazardous waste produced by California AutoZone stores through damage, spills and returns is being collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly documented and accounted for.

The settlement requires a monetary payment of $11 million. This consists of $8.9 million for civil penalties, $1.35 million for supplemental environmental projects, and $750,000 for reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs. AutoZone gets a credit of $1 million against the penalties if it undertakes at least $2 million in environmental enhancement work not required by law. In addition, the settlement includes provisions requiring AutoZone to undergo a general compliance audit and a trash receptacle audit to ensure hazardous waste and confidential consumer information is properly disposed of at all facilities. The results of the audit must be shared with the public. The company must also comply with 23 injunctive requirements to comply with environmental protection and confidential consumer information protection laws.

Joining District Attorney O’Malley in this lawsuit are the California Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorneys of Monterey, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Ventura and Yolo Counties, and the Los Angeles City Attorney.

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Contact: ADA Teresa Drenick // Teresa.Drenick@acgov.org // (510) 272-6280

Posted on Jun 19, 2019