The Dollar Tree chain of discount stores has agreed to pay $2.72 million to settle a lawsuit filed by 45 district attorneys across the state of California — and also two city attorneys — alleging that the chain illegally and improperly disposed of hazardous chemical waste from its stores.
Specifically, the suit alleges that instead of following proper environmental protocols for disposing of ignitable liquids, corrosive liquids, toxic materials, batteries, and electronics, Dollar Tree knowingly placed these materials in conventional dumpsters where they would be taken to local landfills.
“The systematic illegal disposal of hazardous waste is a real threat to our water supply, our health, and the health of future generations,” said San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith who was part of the suit.
When the settlement was announced on Friday, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said that Dollar Tree had cooperated throughout the investigation, and had then adopted new procedures for the disposal of items containing hazardous chemicals. Employees were being trained on these new procedures.
This lawsuit may be an important bellwether of regulatory trends in hazardous materials management and worker safety because it’s an example of state and municipal entities refusing to wait for OSHA or the EPA to act on an issue they see as vital, and instead using the legal means available to pursue their own citations. It also shows that toward this end, different appointed and elected officials across jurisdictions are apparently willing to collaborate.
“California retailers have been on notice for almost a decade now that local prosecutors will work together as a team to vigorously enforce California’s hazardous waste laws,” said David Eyster, Mendocino County District Attorney. “Last Friday’s settlement is yet another positive step towards protecting the environment and statewide public health.”
This lawsuit is not the first time Dollar Tree has faced a penalty in recent days. Just last week, OSHA proposed $116,200 in penalties for blocked exits and dangerously piled boxes at a store in Texas. Since 2009, Dollar Tree stores have been cited by OSHA a staggering 200 times. In the last six months of 2014 alone, Dollar Tree stores collectively received more than $900,000 in OSHA fines.
A Fortune 500 company, Dollar Tree has over 5,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada, and over 87,000 employees. In 2014, Dollar Tree earned over $8.6 billion in revenue.