Calif. Dumping Hazards to Cost Walgreens $16M

     (CN) - Walgreens will pay $16.57 million to settle claims that it illegally dumped hazardous waste and confidential patient records in the trash, a California judge ruled.
     The complaint, filed in Alameda County Superior Court in June by 43 California district attorneys and two city attorneys, alleged that Walgreens had spent over six years illegally disposing of pesticides, bleach, paint, pharmaceutical and biohazardous waste, as well as other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.
     Walgreen Co. was also accused of discarding customer records containing confidential medical information without shredding them or redacting customer information first.
     "Dangerous waste and private medical information must both be handled and disposed of in a safe and lawful manner," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Tina Nunes-Ober said in a statement. "Companies need to ensure that the environment is protected and that private medical information does not end up in the wrong hands."
     The investigation into Walgreens' trash across California during the summer and fall of 2011 revealed that the stores routinely tossed hazardous waste into bins that went to local landfills, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said.
     Confidential medical records were tossed in the same manner, investigators found. They allegedly discovered violations in 34 out of the 37 inspection sites.
     Walgreens, which has more than 600 stores in California, will pay $16.57 million in civil penalties and costs, part of which will fund environmental projects furthering the enforcement of California's environmental and consumer-protection laws.
     "As a result of the investigation and prosecution, Walgreens has adopted new policies and procedures to legally and safely handle and dispose of hazardous waste as well as customers' confidential medical information," the district attorney's press release states.
     Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynee Carvill certified the settlement.