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AutoNation To Pay $3.38 Million To Settle California Environment Lawsuit

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- A $3.38 million settlement has been reached between dozens of AutoNation subsidiaries and eight California counties including Alameda and Santa Clara for alleged violations of environmental and customer record laws, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The 57 dealerships and collision centers will pay $2.1 million in civil penalties after they allegedly disposed of hazardous waste illegally, broke laws related to the storage of hazardous materials and didn't protect the information of some customers.

Prosecutors said the case began in 2013 when environmental health inspectors from Santa Clara County allegedly saw hazardous waste violations at several AutoNation service departments.

AutoNation is the country's largest retailer of new vehicles.

A string of undercover inspections of the dealership's garbage cans revealed that hazardous auto fluids, partially filled aerosol cans, used oil filters, electronic waste, and at one dealership, used motor oil, were allegedly disposed of illegally.

Prosecutors also allege that documents and invoices containing customers' personal information were found in the trash.

California law requires businesses make reasonable efforts to dispose of customer records by erasing or redacting information or shredding documents.

Prosecutors said as part of the settlement, the defendants will pay $380,000 in costs and $900,000 on projects aimed at improving the company's compliance with hazardous waste laws.

The terms of the settlement also state that California AutoNation dealerships have a full-time environmental director on staff, provide resources so customer records can be shred and train all employees who work with customer records on the requirements of records laws.

Officials with AutoNation issued a statement, saying, "AutoNation is committed to environmental compliance and stewardship, and the protection of confidential customer information. Our indirectly owned California stores and collision centers devote substantial resources to the proper handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials, as well as to safeguarding their customers' private information, in compliance with the law."

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