Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach announced this week that his office is going after Walgreens for “routinely and systematically dumping hazardous wastes into the environment” and unlawfully destroying customers’ medical information.
Zellerbach has joined 35 other DA’s Offices and two City Attorney’s Offices throughout the state in the filing of a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in a civil lawsuit against Walgreen Co.
The injunction was filed in Alameda County on Aug. 7 and follows a lawsuit filed June 18 -- also in Alameda County Superior Court -- alleging that more than 600 Walgreens stores statewide improperly handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials over a 6½-year period.
“Those included pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products and solvents, pharmaceutical and bio hazardous wastes, and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials,” Zellerbach’s office contends.
“At the time of the lawsuit, all 53 Walgreens stores and one distribution center in Riverside County were involved in the hazardous waste violations. In November 2011, Riverside County DA’s investigators examined the trash disposal of four Walgreens stores in Riverside County and found that the violations were continuing. At that time, items such as pharmaceutical waste, nail polish, batteries and electronic devices were found to have been improperly disposed of,” according to Zellerbach’s office.
There are several Walgreens locations in Southwest Riverside County, including five in Murrieta, two in Lake Elsinore and one in Menifee.
The lawsuit contends that Walgreen Co. systematically ignored laws to cut costs, alleging that employees improperly stored, handled and disposed of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste products into company trash bins. These waste materials were unlawfully sent to area landfills instead of being sent to authorized disposal sites.
The lawsuit also alleges that Walgreens stores unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information.
Companies in possession of medical information are required by law to protect the privacy of their customers’ confidential medical information, Zellerbach’s office stated, and the lawsuit alleges that Walgreen Co. failed to take the proper steps to preserve and protect the confidentiality of their pharmacy customers.
“All the district attorneys and city attorneys joined in the legal action are requesting that Walgreen Co. be required to lawfully manage its hazardous waste and hazardous materials, maintain the confidentiality of medical information as required by law, and be liable for civil penalties that result from their violations,” Zellerbach’s office stated.
According to Zellerbach’s office, the investigation began in 2009 and involved local, city and county environmental regulators as well as the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.