California investigators allegedly found dozens of toxic waste samples–along with other sensitive goods–in Walmart’s own trash compactors
California prosecutors have filed a new lawsuit against Walmart, claiming that the company dumps more than 1 million toxic chemicals in the state’s landfills each and every year.
According to The Guardian, the lawsuit was announced by California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Monday.
In his complaint, Bonta accuses Walmart of failing to properly dispose of discarded or returned goods, including batteries, aerosol cans of insect killer, and other hazardous products.
“Walmart’s own audits found that the company is dumping hazardous waste at local landfills at a rate of more than one million items each year. From there, these products may seep into the state’s drinking water as toxic pollutants or into the air as dangerous gases,” Bonta said in a press release.
“When a big box store disposes of unwanted goods, just like the rest of us, they need to do so properly,” Bonta said. “Unfortunately, Walmart, the largest company in the world by revenue, has failed to do that on a grand scale here in California.”
Meredith Williams, director of California’s department of toxic substances control, explained that hazardous waste can adversely affect public health in the areas adjoining landfills.
“Pesticides, electronics, household hazardous waste must be disposed of properly, or they can be released into our air, our water and soil, resulting in a number of negative health outcomes, including cancer, neurological disorders, asthma, or learning disabilities,” Williams said in a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
The Guardian notes that Walmart settled a similar lawsuit with California in 2010, in which the company paid $25 million and agreed to stop dumping toxic waste in landfills not equipped to contain hazardous chemicals.
In spite of its environmental history in California, Walmart has insisted that the state’s latest lawsuit is unfounded.
“We have met with the state numerous times and walked them through our industry-leading hazardous waste compliance programs in an effort to avoid litigation. Instead, they filed this unjustified lawsuit,” Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said in a statement. “The state is demanding a level of compliance regarding waste disposal from our stores of common household products and other items that goes beyond what is required by law.”
“Walmart is a responsible corporate citizen in California and everywhere we operate. We take our obligation to protect the environment seriously and have industry-leading processes in place to comply with local, state and federal environmental laws,” Hargrove added.
National Public Radio notes that, since 2015, California investigators said that at least 58 inspections of trash compactors taken from Walmart stores found “dozens” of items classified as either hazardous waste, medical waste, or sensitive consumer records containing customers’ personal information.