Riverside, Calif., District Attorney (DA) Mike Hestrin, along with the California attorney general and numerous other district attorneys, announced an $11 million settlement with AutoZone, which resolves allegations that the company violated state laws governing hazardous waste, hazardous materials and confidential consumer information.
AutoZone has been charged with illegally disposing millions of hazardous waste items, including used motor oil and automotive fluids, at landfills not authorized to accept hazardous waste. Joining the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in the settlement are California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the District Attorneys of Alameda, Monterey, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Ventura and Yolo Counties and the Los Angeles City Attorney.
AutoZone is a retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts, accessories and engine additives in North America and owns or operates approximately 600 retail stores and a distribution center. From August 2013 through September 2015, district attorney’s offices throughout California conducted 56 inspections of dumpster bins at 49 separate AutoZone facilities. According to the DA’s offices, the investigations found numerous instances of “unlawful disposal of hazardous waste including batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices and hundreds of discarded bottles and other receptacles containing automotive fluids and other regulated hazardous waste.”
The investigation also revealed that AutoZone allowed its customers to deposit hazardous automotive fluids and other waste items into regular trash containers in AutoZone stores’ parking lots throughout California, according to the Riverside DA’s office.
“AutoZone facilities in 45 counties in California were affected by these environmental violations. It is estimated that AutoZone disposed of over 5 million hazardous waste items in California,” reported the DA’s office.
The settlement requires a monetary settlement of $11 million, consisting of $8.9 million for civil penalties, $1.35 million for supplemental environmental projects and $750,000 for reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs. AutoZone gets a credit of $1 million against the penalties if it incurs at least $2 million in environmental enhancement work not required by law.
In addition, the settlement includes provisions requiring AutoZone to undergo a general compliance audit and a trash receptacle audit to ensure hazardous waste and confidential consumer information are being properly disposed of at all facilities. The results of the audit must be shared with the public. The company must also comply with 23 injunctive requirements to comply with environmental protection and confidential consumer information protection laws.