Placer County joins in major lawsuit against Walgreens

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, The Press Tribune
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Placer County’s district attorney’s office joined a host of prosecutors across the state in filing a joint lawsuit against Walgreens for alleged environmental crimes. Placer County Deputy District Attorney Jane Crew announced Aug. 7 that her office, under the direction of District Attorney Scott Owens, is moving forward with a preliminary injunction to legally stop Walgreens “from routinely and systematically dumping hazardous wastes” in improper places. Thirty-four other district attorneys throughout California have filed the same injunction. Crew told the Press Tribune that there is a reason her office is getting involved in the legal action. “Some of the allegations include Placer County,” she said. “We are part of the case.” Crew added, “Because it’s open and ongoing litigation, I can’t get into specifics yet. Once the lawsuit is over, we’ll be happy to share all of the information about how it pertained to our area.” Some basic allegations have already been made public by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the lead prosecuting agency in the case. The Alameda DA charges that more than 600 Walgreens stores “improperly handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials.” The lawsuit claims these materials included pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive solvents, pharmaceutical combinations and bio-hazard wastes. The toxic dumping is alleged to have occurred over a six-year period. The injunction against Walgreens also asserts the company “unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information.” All of Walgreens reported indiscretions were done for the purposes of cost savings, according to prosecutors. On Aug. 7, Owens made a brief statement about the need for the Placer County District Attorney’s Office to take part in the lawsuit. “We join with our fellow district attorney and city attorney offices around the state in ensuring that businesses follow safe practices and comply with the California hazardous waste laws,” Owens said. The allegations against Walgreens are something Marilyn Jasper, president of the Sierra Club Placer Group, finds very disturbing. “Illegal dumping of dangerous chemicals and hazardous waste can cause contamination far beyond landfills,” Jasper observed. “The chemicals can leak out and contaminate waterways, or volatilize the air and cause air pollution.” For Jasper, the allegation that Walgreens dumped pharmaceutical products is another major point of concern. “Pharmaceutical waste has been a growing problem,” she said. “The Sierra Club has been working on legislation that will reduce improper disposal and encourage redistribution of pharmaceuticals that are safe to be used — drugs that would have otherwise been discarded. Overall, pharma residues from wastewater have been a big issue.”