A lawsuit was filed against Target Corporation on Monday by the California Attorney General and 19 district attorneys, including Santa Clara County's. The suit alleges that Target's 200-plus California stores, including the one on Showers Drive in Mountain View, have improperly disposed of hazardous materials for the past eight years.
Target has stores in Mountain View, Redwood City, Cupertino, Fremont, Newark and San Jose. Its California retail stores and distribution centers collectively handle and sell substantial volumes of hazardous materials, including bleaches, pool chlorine, pesticides, fertilizers, paints and varnishes, ignitable liquids, aerosol products, cleaning agents, automotive products and solvents and flammable and corrosive materials, according to an announcement of the action.
Some of the materials spill, break, expire or become damaged such that they cannot be sold or used, according to a press release from Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores A. Carr.
Inspectors have found repeated violations in which the materials were disposed of in trash compactors and sent to landfills instead of being separated and sent to hazardous-waste facilities, including at Santa Clara County stores, according to Kenneth Rosenblatt, Santa Clara County supervising deputy district attorney.
Inspections up and down the state found the number of manifests that list the shipping, destination and quantity of hazardous materials went down over the last eight years, with no adequate paper trail, he said.
"They were given notice of violations but they just don't seem to be able to fix it," he said.
The lawsuit would require Target to comply immediately with California law and start using a licensed hazardous-waste hauler to pick up the waste and transport it to an appropriate disposal facility.
The suit seeks $25,000 maximum penalties for each violation. Rosenblatt said he could not guess as to the number of violations or the sum of the penalties prosecutors will seek.
On May 18, Target embarked on a national health-and-wellness campaign, founding the Alliance to Make US Healthiest, a coalition that strives to help U.S. citizens become more physically and emotionally healthy, according to company press releases.
A Target spokesperson said the company is committed to maintaining compliance with environmental laws. Target has been participating in dialogue with the California attorney general and a number of district attorneys for almost three years, she said.
"We continue to believe that further review of our practices will lead to the conclusion that our program not only meets but surpasses the requirements of California law," Laura Opsahl, Target spokeswoman, said.
Target claims the attorney general is seeking to prevent the company from donating products such as detergent, shampoo and hairspray to local charities.
"We are disappointed that the relief sought in the complaint would unnecessarily reduce our support of those members of our communities most in need and would require Target to send useful products to landfills," she said.