OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An $11 million settlement to resolve state claims that auto parts retailer AutoZone Inc. illegally disposed of hazardous waste in 45 California counties was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland Tuesday.
The case was filed against Memphis, Tennessee-based AutoZone by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 10 district attorneys and the Los Angeles city attorney.
The investigation of violations of state hazardous waste laws was carried out between 2013 and 2015 and was initiated and led by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office Environmental Protection Unit.
District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said on Wednesday, "When companies ignore or violate these laws, they put our precious natural resources at risk."
Becerra and O'Malley alleged that the probe showed that an estimated 5 million hazardous waste items such as used motor oil, oil filters, batteries, electronics and aerosol cans were thrown away in regular trash bins instead of specialized bins to be taken to licensed hazardous waste disposal sites.
AutoZone does not admit to any fault in the settlement. A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment. O'Malley said the company began improving its procedures after prosecutors informed it of the illegal disposals.
The settlement includes a permanent injunction requiring AutoZone to comply with hazardous waste control laws. It provides for an $8.9 million civil penalty, $1.35 million for environmental projects, and $750,000 for reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs.
Other district attorneys participating in the lawsuit were those of Monterey, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Ventura and Yolo counties.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement, "When companies take shortcuts that jeopardize the livability of our communities, it's up to California to hold them accountable and protect our environment for future generations."
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