Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten, along with 30 other California District Attorneys and the Los Angeles City Attorney, announced that Ventura County Superior Court Judge Vincent O’Neill has ordered New Jersey-based Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. (“Bed Bath & Beyond”) to pay $1,498,750 as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.
The judgment is the culmination of a multijurisdictional civil enforcement lawsuit filed last month in Ventura County Superior Court alleging that more than 200 Bed Bath & Beyond stores throughout California (including Cost Plus, buybuy BABY, Harmon, Harmon Face Values, World Market, and Cost Plus World Market stores) unlawfully handled, transported and disposed of batteries, electronic devices, ignitable liquids, aerosol products, cleaning agents, and other flammable, reactive, toxic, and corrosive materials, at local landfills that were not permitted to receive such wastes.
The investigation was initiated by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit (VCDAO CEPU) after a fire broke out on December 24, 2015, at the City of Oxnard’s Del Norte Transfer Facility. The fire was caused by a load of store waste from the trash compactor of the Oxnard Bed Bath & Beyond store. The bagged store waste suddenly burst into flames when a city employee used a front-end loader to spread the freshly dumped trash pile. A subsequent investigation by the VCDAO CEPU led to the recovery of numerous items of regulated waste, including several electronic items, hazardous waste, lithium batteries, and a small can of lighter fluid.
About four months later, on April 14, 2016, the Oxnard Fire Department responded to a fire emergency in the trash compactor attached to the rear of the Oxnard Bed Bath & Beyond store. After that fire was extinguished, a VCDAO environmental specialist inspected the waste and again discovered numerous items of regulated waste, including batteries, broken compact fluorescent bulbs, and various discarded electronic devices.
Following these local events, the VCDAO CEPU worked in conjunction with other district attorney, city attorney, and local environmental regulatory officials throughout California to conduct a series of undercover inspections of Bed Bath & Beyond store waste around the state. These inspections revealed that Bed Bath & Beyond had been routinely and systematically sending regulated hazardous wastes from stores to local landfills throughout California.
When notified of the investigation, Bed Bath & Beyond took steps to cooperate and to dedicate additional resources towards environmental compliance and improving its regulated waste management program, including performing regular self-audits of its compactors and waste bins throughout California. Under the final judgment, Bed Bath & Beyond must pay $1,327,500 in civil penalties and reimbursement of investigation and prosecution costs, of which $251,450 will be paid to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, $10,000 to the Oxnard Fire Department, and $3,200 to the Ventura County Environmental Health Division. The company will pay an additional $171,250 to fund supplemental environmental projects furthering environmental enforcement in California. The retailer will also be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.