California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley and other prosecutors announced Thursday that a judge has ordered Home Depot USA to pay $27.84 million for unlawfully disposing hazardous wastes.
The settlement, which was ordered by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman, also resolves allegations that Home Depot, which is based in Atlanta, discarded records without rendering private customer information unreadable.
"Today's settlement marks a victory for both environmental and consumer protection throughout California," O'Malley said in a statement.
"My office works tirelessly to investigate and prosecute companies large and small that endanger our precious resources by illegally disposing of hazardous waste. We also strive to ensure that consumers' privacy and security is maintained and protected," O'Malley said.
She said the judgment is the culmination of a civil enforcement action filed on Feb. 15 that was led by her office, the California Attorney General's Office, and the district attorneys of Monterey, Riverside, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Ventura and Yolo counties and the city attorney of Los Angeles, with assistance by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.
The civil complaint alleged that more than 300 Home Depot stores and distribution centers throughout the state were routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills that were not permitted to receive those wastes, and were tossing documents containing sensitive customer information into store trash bins, potentially exposing the information to identity thieves.
Prosecutors said 45 trash compactors belonging to 31 Home Depot stores were inspected and the inspections revealed that all 45 compactors contained hazardous waste and many of the compactors also contained discarded records containing sensitive customer information that had not been shredded or rendered unreadable.
The unlawfully disposed of hazardous wastes included pesticides, aerosols, paint and colorants, solvents, adhesives, batteries, mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs, electronic waste, key shavings and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.
The discarded records containing customer information included customer names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
Prosecutors said that after Home Depot was notified of the investigation, it took steps to cooperate and to dedicate additional resources toward environmental compliance and improving its hazardous waste and customer record management compliance programs.
In the settlement, Home Depot has committed to employing hazardous waste compliance managers dedicated specifically to ensuring the proper handling and management of hazardous wastes, and to conducting daily store inspections to ensure that hazardous waste and hazardous materials are being properly handled.
Under the final judgment, Home Depot must pay $18.487 million in civil penalties and costs.
An additional $2.513 million will fund supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California and Home Depot will spend at least $6.84 million for the compliance environmental measures to which it has committed.
The settlement also prohibits Home Depot from engaging in similar future violations of law.
Becerra said, "We take seriously our obligation to protect the health and well-being of our communities and that is why we are holding Home Depot accountable."
Becerra said the fact the investigation's finding that Home Depot failed to properly manage and dispose of hazardous waste and personal customer information "is unacceptable and illegal."
In a statement, Home Depot said, "We're pleased to have settled this and we remain committed to the responsible disposal of waste. We'll continue to work with California officials to that end."