SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/KPIX) – Ten district attorneys in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas announced Monday that they have reached a settlement with the cosmetics company Ulta Beauty for improperly storing, handling and disposing hazardous materials.
District attorneys from Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties were part of a lawsuit against Ulta Beauty Inc. that included a total of 34 district attorneys and city attorneys across the state.
According to the complaint filed by the district and city attorneys, Ulta Beauty stores across the state frequently handled flammable, reactive, toxic and corrosive materials like cosmetics, fragrances, nail polish and electronics and allegedly improperly disposed of them in standard trash containers and dumpsters rather than transporting them to a designated, legal hazardous waste facility.
The complaint also alleges that Ulta Beauty stores failed to properly document and store hazardous waste materials or train employees to handle and dispose of them.
"These are serious violations of hazardous materials," said Scott Alonso with Contra Costa County District Attorneys Office.
As part of the settlement, Ulta will be required to pay $752,000 in fines and implement a compliance program to ensure they properly dispose of hazardous materials in the future.
"Most companies are not aware of the laws of the negligent behavior," said Alonso.
He says the settlement follows an investigation into all California Ulta stores.
"So for instance products like sunscreen, make up and nail polish remover and all those things are being tracked. So they know where it's going. Before, they didn't have any record and that was our big issue."
A Tik Tok video went viral when an employee was demonstrating how they get rid of returned or used items. But this settlement points specifically to the hazardous waste thrown in dumpsters. A photo was taken outside the Ulta store in Pinole where hazardous products were discarded into a nearby dumpster.
"We just looked inside their dumpster and found all these products mixed in with regular trash …and so that really is the issue - if you don't dispose of these products properly you can do immense harm to the environment," said Alonso. "You have to dispose of these potentially hazardous materials in a sensitive way - you can't just throw them in the dumpster. It will end up in the landfill. That's going to harm the environment."
"Companies must be held responsible for business practices that pose a harm to the environment," Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said in a statement. "Ulta was cooperative throughout the investigation and in correcting the issues."
Now, all Ulta California stores have adopted new policies and procedures to properly manage and dispose of the hazardous waste products, but Ulta isn't the only company facing fines.
"We have taken action against companies last year from a paint company to recently a steel plant, all based on how they are keeping track of these materials," said Alonso.
Ulta Beauty has 161 stores across the state, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.
Juliette Goodrich contributed to this report.
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