Whole Foods Ordered to Pay $1.6M for Hazardous Waste Breach

Whole Foods Ordered to Pay $1.6M for Hazardous Waste Breach

Following a lawsuit filed by San Diego and 21 other prosecuting agencies, natural and organic grocer Whole Foods Market and two affiliates will pay $1.6 million for failing to properly dispose of hazardous materials.

The companies will pay more than $1.4 million in civil penalties and legal costs, as well as more than $200,000 toward supplemental environmental projects and the prosecution of similar crimes. San Diego will receive approximately $113,000 in civil penalties, including more than $16,000 to support the work of the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health.

The judgement by Yolo County Judge Thomas Warriner covers Whole Foods Market California Inc., Mrs. Gooch's Natural Food Markets Inc. and WFM-WO Inc. The court found that the companies mishandled and illegally disposed of hazardous waste at their California stores. Whole Foods stores in Hillcrest and UTC were implicated in the complaint.

Over a five-year period, Whole Foods disposed of hazardous materials, such as ignitable liquids, aerosol products, cleaning agents, and other flammable, reactive, toxic, and corrosive materials, at each of its facilities. Failure to properly handle and dispose of these items violated the California Health and Safety Code. The code, which includes the Hazardous Waste Control Law, provides a comprehensive framework regulating the generation, handling, treatment, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste. The law was established to protect public health and the environment.

As a result, Whole Foods and the two affiliates are required to label and store hazardous materials to protect employees and customers from exposure, properly track and document hazardous waste, and dispose of it only at authorized facilities.

"California has some of the most stringent environmental protection laws in the nation, and for good reason," said City Attorney Mara W. Elliott. "Companies that handle hazardous waste owe it to their customers, employees, and communities to dispose of this material safely and lawfully. My office works to ensure that all corporations, regardless of size or status, are accountable for their conduct."

At press time, Whole Foods had not responded to a request for comments.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market operates more than 470 stores throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Under the name of its parent company, Amazon, the grocer is No. 8 on Progressive Grocer's 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the U.S.

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