Walgreen Company to Pay $16.7 Million Settlement for Environmental Violations

December 13, 2012

CONTACT: Stephanie Ong Stillman, (415) 553-1167 or (415) 740-5134
Alex Bastian, (415) 553-1931

Stores Illegally Dumped Hazardous Wastes and Confidential Customer Medical Information

San Francisco - District Attorney George Gascón, together with 42 other California District Attorneys and two city attorneys, announced today that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill has ordered the Illinois-based Walgreen Company to pay $16.57 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.

“We must do all we can to protect our environment, the health and safety of the public and our future generations,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “As a result of the state-wide efforts in this case, California Walgreen’s have adopted new policies and procedures to aid in proper disposal of hazardous waste and to protect customer confidential medical information.”

The judgment is the culmination of a civil enforcement lawsuit filed in Alameda County in June claiming that more than 600 Walgreen stores throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials over a six and one-half year period, including pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical and bio-hazardous wastes and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials. The settlement also resolves allegations that Walgreen’s unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information without preserving the confidentiality of the information therein.

During the investigation of Walgreen Company stores, district attorney investigators and environmental regulators state-wide, conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Walgreen’s stores. The inspections revealed that Walgreen’s was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills, and was failing to take measures to protect the privacy of their pharmacy customers’ confidential medical information.

Under the final judgment, Walgreen Company must pay $16.57 million in civil penalties and costs. It also funds supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California. The retailer will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future alleged violations of law.
Stores are now required to retain their hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers so as to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers and to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions. Hazardous waste produced by California Walgreen’s stores through damage, spills and returns is now being collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly document and accounted for. The settlement also requires Walgreen’s to take proper steps to preserve the confidentiality of their pharmacy customers medical information.

The case was handled in San Francisco by Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Wagner of the Environmental Division of the Special Prosecutions Unit of the District Attorneys Office