Toxic Waste Case to Cost Lowe's at Least $20M

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Lowe's Home Improvement will pay California more than $20 million to settle claims that it illegally disposed hazardous waste.
     The settlement announced April 1 comes only a week after Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley sued Lowe's and Orchard Supply Company on behalf of California over its alleged mishandling of hazardous materials such as medications, bleach, pool chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, batteries, paint and flammable liquid.
     Lowe's and Orchard Supply violated several provisions of Health and Safety Code in their management and disposal of the hazardous materials, according to the complaint.
     O'Malley said in particular that the defendants had failed to determine if items returned by customers and waste generated at their California and Oregon facilities were in fact hazardous.
     In cases where they did so, they allegedly "failed to handle such hazardous waste in accordance with" legal requirements.
     The complaint alleged failures "to classify waste as hazardous or nonhazardous," among other things.
     O'Malley said the defendants failed to mark containers as containing hazardous waste and failed to keep those containers closed.
     They also allegedly stored that waste without a hazardous waste facilities permit and disposed of waste "at a point not authorized" including "non hazardous landfills and other locations not authorized to receive hazardous waste."
     The parties stipulated Monday to an entry of final judgment that compels Lowe's and Orchard Supply to, among other things, maintain a lawful program "for the lawful storage, handling and accumulation of hazardous waste," to "maintain properly designated and designed hazardous waste storage areas," and to "comply with employee training obligations."
     California will also recover $16 million in civil penalties and more than $3 million for "remedial measures to minimize hazardous waste generation in California," the judgment states.
     The defendants must also pay $600,000 in attorneys' fees, plus more than $2 million to the "prosecuting agencies/regulatory agencies for supplemental environmental projects.".
     Lowe's is represented by Gaither Keener Jr. in Mooresville, N.C. Orchard is represented by Michael Fox in San Jose.