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Walgreens to Pay $16.5M for Improper Waste Disposal, Privacy Violations

Multiple Orange County stores mishandled pesticides, bleach and other chemicals, officials say.

Walgreens stores in Orange County and around the state routinely sent hazardous waste to local landfills and failed to protect the privacy of pharmacy customers’ confidential medical information, authorities said Thursday.

As a result, a judge in Alameda Superior Court ordered Walgreen Co. to pay $16.57 million to settle a civil environmental lawsuit for hazardous waste disposal violations, officials announced Thursday.

“The lawsuit contends that more than 600 Walgreens stores throughout the state ... unlawfully handled and disposed of hazardous waste for more than six years,” a press release said.

The hazardous waste included pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical and bio-hazardous waste, and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials, officials said.

In Orange County, the list of stores involved included one in Aliso Viejo, two in Lake Forest, five in Fountain Valley, six in Huntington Beach, two in Mission Viejo, two in Laguna Niguel, one in Laguna Hills, one in Rancho Santa Margarita and two in Costa Mesa, according to court documents.

During the summer and fall of 2011, district attorney investigators and environmental regulators statewide conducted a series of waste inspections of Dumpsters belonging to Walgreens’ stores.

A civil enforcement lawsuit was filed in Alameda County in June 2012.

“The settlement also resolves allegations that Walgreens unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information without preserving confidentiality,” officials said.

“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,” officials said.

Hazardous waste produced by California Walgreens stores through damage, spills and returns is now being collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly documented and accounted for, officials said. 

“The settlement also requires Walgreens to take proper steps to preserve the confidentiality of their pharmacy customer’s medical information,” they said.

Under the settlement, the Orange County district attorney's office will receive $65,000 in civil penalties. The county's Health Care Agency will get $45,000.

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