Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne S. Carvill has ordered Pleasanton-based Safeway Inc. to pay $9.87 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.
The court's ruling comes just days before the acquisition of Safeway by Boise-based Albertsons.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley said 42 other California district attorneys and two city attorneys were involved with her office in the investigation of the unlawfully handling and disposal of various hazardous wastes and materials over a 7-1/2-year period by Safeway and Safeway-owned stores. The violations included unlawful disposal of over-the-counter medications, pharmaceuticals, aerosol products, ignitable liquids, batteries, electronic devices and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.
The judgment is the culmination of a civil enforcement lawsuit filed in Alameda County on Dec. 31, led by O'Malley and the district attorneys of Orange, San Joaquin, Solano, San Francisco, Riverside, Ventura and Yolo counties.
The lawsuit claimed that more than 500 Safeway stores and distribution centers, including its Von's, Pavilions and Pak 'n Save stores, unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials
The settlement also resolves allegations that Safeway unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information without preserving the confidentiality of the information therein.
All 30 Safeway stores in Alameda County, including those in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore, were involved in the violations.
"This investigation touched nearly every county in California, and today's results could not have been reached without the collaborative work of the many offices involved," O'Malley said. "Today's settlement marks a victory for our state's environment as well as for the security and privacy of confidential patient information throughout California."
The investigation into Safeway's practices began after discovery of improper shipments of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste to Safeway's distribution centers through its reverse logistics program.
During 2012 and 2013, inspectors from O'Malley's Environmental Protection Division along with other investigators and environmental regulators statewide, conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Safeway stores.
The inspections revealed that Safeway 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.
Upon being notified by prosecutors of the widespread issues, Safeway worked cooperatively to remedy the issue, enhance its environmental compliance program and train its employees to properly handle such waste, O'Malley said.
Pursuant to the terms of the final judgment and permanent injunction, issued by Judge Carvil, all Safeway and Safeway-affiliated stores have adopted new policies and procedures designed to eliminate the improper disposal of retail hazardous waste products and pharmaceutical waste into store trash bins for eventual disposal into local landfills.
In addition, the corporation must pay $9.87 million in civil penalties, costs and supplemental environmental projects. Under the terms of the settlement, Safeway must also continue its First Assistant Store Manager Program designed to address environmental compliance at the store level and conduct annual store audits.