RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Walgreens will be paying Riverside County and 44 other counties $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit connected to improper waste disposal and mishandling of customers’ records — in violation of an injunction issued as part of an earlier settlement — prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Co. was sued earlier this year over numerous alleged instances of dumping over-the-counter and prescription medications, electronic devices, batteries, aerosol products, cleaning agents and other hazardous waste into receptacles bound for landfills, instead of separate collection locations, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
The agency’s Environmental Protection Unit joined prosecutors from the other counties in bringing the civil action, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.
In addition to waste disposal violations, the plaintiffs alleged Walgreens engaged in re-occurring practices of discarding customers’ personal information without first shredding the documents — counter to California’s privacy laws.
The alleged negligent acts of hazardous waste and records disposal were a breach of the compliance program established in December 2012 under a $16.57 million settlement reached between Walgreens and 42 counties, including Riverside County.
That suit stemmed from a nearly seven-year investigation in which authorities confirmed instances of Walgreens employees dumping pharmaceutical waste and corrosive materials in open trash bins, mixed with other garbage, instead of in designated containers.
There are 49 Walgreens outlets, including a distribution plant, in Riverside County. Statewide, there are roughly 600 stores, prosecutors said.
Under the settlement signed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, Riverside County will receive $326,926 in civil penalties and reimbursement for investigative costs.
The stipulated judgment specifies that Walgreens continue paying for a total of four compliance officers who will be tasked with ensuring that the terms of the agreement, and all disposal requirements, are met.
Stores will also be subject to periodic inspections and audits, and Walgreens will again be required to abide by the previous injunction, appropriately disposing of hazardous waste and complying with consumer protection laws, according to court documents.