Home improvement retailer Home Depot Inc. will pay more than $27 million in penalties and reform its hazardous waste disposal and privacy protection policies to settle a lawsuit brought by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and other agencies, it was announced Thursday.

The nationwide chain came under investigation in 2013 for allegedly dumping hazardous materials in bins, the contents of which ended up in landfills, as well as discarding documents bearing customers’ information in receptacles without deleting information that could have been procured to perpetrate identity theft, according to the D.A.’s office.

Agency spokesman John Hall said that, between 2013 and 2015, the D.A.’s Environmental Protection Team and state regulators conducted inspections of 45 trash compactors at 32 Home Depot outlets and discovered evidence of improperly discarded adhesives, aerosols, batteries, colorants, mercury light bulbs, paints, solvents and other damaging waste.

“The discarded records containing customer information included names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses,” Hall said.

In addition to Riverside County, prosecutors from Alameda, Monterey, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Ventura and Yolo counties initiated investigations, backed by the California Department of Justice and the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

“Upon notice of the investigation, Home Depot took steps to cooperate and to dedicate additional resources toward environmental compliance and improving its hazardous waste and customer record management compliance programs,” Hall said, noting there are 24 Home Depot stores in Riverside County.

The civil complaint was filed in Alameda County, and that’s where the settlement agreement was consummated.

Under the agreement, which resulted in a permanent injunction barring the chain from continuing the illegal practices, Home Depot will pay $18 million in penalties, $2.5 million to fund supplemental environmental projects and $6.8 million to expand and implement compliance measures.

Riverside County’s portion of the pay-out was not immediately known.

–City News Service

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