Lowe’s Agrees to Pay $18M to Settle Environmental Violations Case

April 3, 2014 8:00 am · 39 comments

A judge has ordered North Carolina-based Lowe’s Home Centers to pay $18 million in damages for environmental violations at stores in California, Bay Area prosecutors announced today.

A civil enforcement action filed in Alameda County Superior Court by 32 California district attorneys and two city attorneys alleged that more than 118 Lowe’s stores in the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials over a six-and-a-half-year period.

Prosecutors said the hazardous wastes and materials included pesticides, aerosols, paint and colorants solvents, adhesives, batteries, mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs, electronic waste and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge George C. Hernandez, Jr., imposed the damage award to settle the civil environmental prosecution, which was led by the district attorneys of Alameda, San Joaquin and Solano counties.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a statement, “It is imperative that any business operating in the state of California dispose of hazardous wastes safely and legally.”

She said, “Today’s action represents a major victory for our state’s environment, and I wish to commend the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and all the district attorney offices involved in this prosecution.”

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said, “The dangers inherent in dumping hazardous waste cannot be understated, it is absolutely essential that we protect our environment for future generations.”

He said, “Those who would jeopardize our environment are on notice – they will be held liable.”

Prosecutors said Lowe’s was cooperative throughout the investigation and has adopted and implemented enhanced policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of hazardous waste products in California.

They said Lowe’s stores are now required to retain their hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers in order to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers and to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions.

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

Lowe’s spokeswoman Amanda Manna said the company agreed to the settlement as part of “our commitment to comply with all local, state and federal regulations for the disposal of hazardous materials.”

Prosecutors said that from 2011 to 2013, inspectors from the environmental protection division in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, along with other district attorney investigators and environmental regulators statewide, conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Lowe’s stores.

They said the inspections revealed that Lowe’s was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills throughout California that were not permitted to receive those wastes.

Prosecutors said the inspections also revealed that at some Lowe’s stores, batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs that the company had gathered from customers at store recycling kiosks as part of a program to responsibly reduce waste were unlawfully being discarded directly to the trash.

Under the final judgment, Lowe’s must pay $12.85 million in civil penalties and costs.

The company must also pay an additional $2.075 million to fund supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California and fund hazardous waste minimization projects of $3.175 million.

A permanent injunction bars the retailer from committing similar violations of law in the future.

Way to go April 3, 2014 at 8:54 AM

Nice to see our state doing everything in its power to drive business out of California. While I’m certainly not a fan of polluting, 18 million is a ridiculous number.

Lowes in Concord had to shoulder the cost of an enormous leach field to filter rainwater off their roof and parking lot. Another ridiculous requirement.

Where does it end ?

Noj April 3, 2014 at 9:16 AM

Reason number 1,145 why so many companies are leaving this state.

Proud Californian April 3, 2014 at 9:25 AM

That’s good news.

Nuttsie the Nutter April 3, 2014 at 9:39 AM

“A permanent injunction bars the retailer from committing similar violations of law in the future.” I feel much safer now!

@ Nos 1 & 2 April 3, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Probably don’t even believe in climate change

What? April 3, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Yes by all means, lets complain about people
leaving trash on our streets, but heaven forbid
we hold a Corp. responsible for their pollution
of OUR environment .
Furthur proof that eighty percent of the posters
here ( Claycord), Excuse me Mayor, are Morons!

WC April 3, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Fattened up some government agencies and their lawyer friends. I bet not a direct dime to any environmental cleanup activities.

@5 April 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Of course I believe in climate change. It changes every day. If you think man is causing global warming, and you are willing to let your government control every little aspect of your life in the name of it, then you are a moron like # 6.

Why don’t you go buy some carbon credits. You’ll feel better.

BagsFlyFree April 3, 2014 at 11:44 AM

We don’t need super sized box stores.. Look at Lowe’s Concord since launch.. Barely 1/4 of the lot full at any given time. Yet, the local mom n pop hardware/paint/plumbing store that was once thriving is now on the brink of closing doors.

These cost cutting measures that big corps allow are all the tradeoffs of being the “low price leader.” CA has it right, and we do influence dirty states to mirror our regulations as they see what fertilizer, paint, plant run-off, and fracking fluids can do to plant, animal, and human health.

BFF Out!

@8 April 3, 2014 at 11:52 AM

You are so ” stupid” to actually believe that
the billions of people and the industries that
support us all, and the infrastructure, isn’t
affecting the climate on earth, you are “stupid”.
Stupid in the most accurate definition of the word.

Mister Wister April 3, 2014 at 11:52 AM

And you determined this with your 2nd grade science “education”?

Dorothy April 3, 2014 at 11:58 AM

I felt rather disappointed in Lowe’s when I saw this. It’s one of my favorite stores.

KJ April 3, 2014 at 12:17 PM

You would think a big corporation like Lowe’s could train its workers not to throw hazardous waste in with regular trash. But then, again, it could be that with the “race to the bottom,” Lowe’s might a high turnover of low-wage workers, and that could mean there isn’t anyone who knows enough (or cares enough) to really train a new employee.

Nymous April 3, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Comments #1 & 2.

I guess it’s ok for these big Companies not to follow the law as long as they keep their business here, right? Yeah…let them throw all those hazardous materials anywhere! Who cares?!

@9 April 3, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Yes we do. It’s called competition which makes your life affordable. Lowes or any other business should not pollute, but free market competition drives people to work hard to provide goods and services at the best possible cost to you. If they can do that, they make more money. That’s the fuel driving entrepreneurs and the American Dream. No competition, no American Dream. So we do need them jackass.

@11 April 3, 2014 at 2:03 PM

So nice to see that liberal tolerance at work. Peace, love, and all that.

@10 April 3, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Yes. I learned to read in the second grade. Then I read what the scientific community wrote on the subject. Global Warming is a farce. Hence, it’s now referred to as “Climate Change” by the politicians who use environmental issues to control you.

Maybe you should start reading.

Incognito April 3, 2014 at 2:37 PM

No matter where your company is based out of, in the case of Lowe’s it is North Carolina, you better be prepared to following the rules and regulations of the State(s) in which you chose to do business in – regardless of whether you think the regulations are stupid and/or ridiculous.

Mom and Pop Automotive down the street has to abide by these rules, so why should Lowe’s be any different. And, you can’t blame it on your employee who makes minimum wage – no excuses.

@15 April 3, 2014 at 2:39 PM



So trusting in Science makes you a liberal???

Using that logic I guess believing in God makes you a Republican then..

@17 April 3, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Don’t know what “Scientific Community” you’re reading from. But you couldn’t be anymore wrong..

KJ April 3, 2014 at 3:01 PM

#17 – And it’s called “a farce” by right-wing politicians who use environmental issues to keep people confused and divided, and thus easily controlled.

Mister Wister April 3, 2014 at 3:06 PM

It’s referred to as “climate change” because uneducated dolts, such as yourself, look out the window, see snow, and then proudly proclaim global warming total bs. Maybe you should go back and get that GED?

. April 3, 2014 at 3:18 PM

1. Climate change is happening.

2. It CANNOT be proven that man is the primary cause of climate change.

Forgive me April 3, 2014 at 3:32 PM

It’s hard to believe Al Gore and his predictions (that never came to pass) and the theory of Global Warming when the world is experiencing record cold and snow at this time.

Just sayin’

I guess the earth has to get colder before it gets warmer according to you climate change experts.

Anon April 3, 2014 at 3:42 PM

“Prosecutors said the inspections also revealed that at some Lowe’s stores, batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs that the company had gathered from customers at store recycling kiosks as part of a program to responsibly reduce waste were unlawfully being discarded directly to the trassh.”

Good supervision at those stores..anyone get fired for this ??

@ Noj #2 April 3, 2014 at 3:44 PM

“Reason number 1,145 why so many companies are leaving this state.”

So what you are saying is that companies should be allowed to pollute in our state with toxic chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic, damage the endocrine glands and immune system. Disrupt and damage our reproductive system and cause sterility, damage our livers and kidneys and pollute our drinking and bathing water and air??
I guess you can move to another state where there are no repercussions or liability for corporations or big business and the little guy and the environment is expendable……You are an idiot.

Cowellian April 3, 2014 at 3:49 PM

This planet has had some kind of global climate change since the very beginning of time. And for as long as humans have been here, there have always been some who thought they could influence their climate. The people who used to practice human sacrifice to try to control the weather now think they can do it with a carbon tax.

BagsFlyFree April 3, 2014 at 4:36 PM

@15 – No need for name calling to prove your point. Here are some facts to chew on.. Think about the US economy over the last 20 years and tell me how our manufacturing base hasn’t been hurt by big box stores who import most of their goods from Asia and South American countries.

Walmart and Lowes are guilty of….

– Importing products from third world countries when many USA quality
products are passed over due to price (low cost leader *cough*)
– Pollute our roads and oceans ferrying crap across the Pacific and US
– Push local businesses out of communities.
– Pollute areas surrounding stores due to lack of oversight, high turnover,
and low wage positions
– Lower overall quality of food provided to communities
– Provide no upside to property owners forced to live near them
– Provide low wages and promote use of government assistance for their

All for the title of “Low price leader”, or “Never Stop Improving.” The U.S. will be better off if more communities stand up to these behemoths and chop down their accounting tax advantages and penalize them based on percentage of imported goods vs. U.S. goods.

Support local businesses who care about their communities!

BFF Out!

Mister Wister April 3, 2014 at 4:49 PM

See post #22. Just sayin’.(rolls eyes)

Mister Wister April 3, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Are you ever going to get your GED?

Smokey April 3, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Lowe’s was fined $18M because unlike the idiots who dump their old furniture on the street, Lowe’s should know better. It will cost them much more than $18M because some people will not want to do business with an unethical business. It pisses me off to know I left my fluorescent bulbs to be recycled and they threw them in the trash. My money will be spent elsewhere.

@28 April 3, 2014 at 6:14 PM

1.4 million people work at Walmart and the stores are packed with your neighbors buying food and sporting goods and home furnishings and electronics and Sam’s Club…..

Yep, we all hate Walmart.

No need to call you a name.

Cowellian April 3, 2014 at 7:18 PM

Apparently, Wister has finally learned how to spell GED, and he’s showing off his new-found skill as often as possible.

Mister Wister April 3, 2014 at 7:23 PM

Perhaps you should do the same with “newfound”…but next time figure out how to actually spell it correctly?

anon April 3, 2014 at 7:26 PM

Why didn’t they just do it right the first time?

Cowellian April 3, 2014 at 7:35 PM

Nice try, Wister.

Rec April 3, 2014 at 9:29 PM

I love how people on here constantly hide behind their keyboards and bad mouth one another “mister wister” in particular.. Thanks mayor for keeping us informed.

DogDog Dad April 4, 2014 at 8:01 AM

Just a quick point here. The Lowe’s stores in question were Alameda county and no Contra Costa store was involved this includes Lowe’s of Concord. Read the court file. Another point of interest, Lowe’s pays well above minimum wages

Angelface April 4, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Well I guess I’ll proudly say I’ve never been to Lowe’s and I won’t be going in the future. The company has a big black eye in my book. Imagine throwing in the trash hazardous materials people went out of their way to bring in! How much over minimum wage is well above, anyway?

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