LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office, in coordination with statewide regulatory agencies and 21 other California District and City Attorneys, has reached a $1,643,500 settlement with Whole Foods Market California Inc. and two related entities resolving allegations of unlawful handling and disposal of hazardous wastes and materials across the state.
"This judgment will ensure strong steps are taken to protect our environment and public health," said Feuer. "And it demonstrates the deep commitment of prosecutors and environmental agencies throughout California to enforce our hazardous waste laws."
Over a five year period, Whole Foods Market, Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Market Inc., and WFM-WO Inc., allegedly mishandled hazardous wastes and materials including batteries, electronic devices, ignitable liquids, aerosol products, cleaning agents and other flammable reactive toxic and corrosive materials. Irregularities were discovered by investigators after a review of the companies’ documentation of employee hazardous waste training to be incomplete. A statewide audit confirmed hazardous waste disposal deficiencies were systemic.
Under the settlement, the Whole Foods entities must pay $1,202,800 in civil penalties, $202,800 to reimburse the costs of the investigation, and $237,900 to fund supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California. The Whole Foods entities must also hire an employee to strengthen the companies’ hazardous-waste programs.
The judgment also requires Whole Foods, Mrs. Gooch’s, and WFM-WO to properly label, package, and store hazardous waste to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers, and to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions. The judgment requires the companies to properly document their hazardous waste and dispose it at authorized facilities.
Deputy City Attorney Jaclyn Romano from the City Attorney’s Environmental Protection Unit represented the City of Los Angeles in this statewide prosecution and served on the lead team of prosecutors negotiating this resolution.