O'Reilly Auto Parts has agreed to pay nearly $10 million to settle an environmental lawsuit alleging the company illegally disposed of hazardous waste in California landfills.
Fifty California district attorneys, including all nine in the Bay Area, joined together to file suit in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging the Missouri-based auto parts company unlawfully "handled, transported and disposed of" various hazardous materials at its more than 500 California stores, including used oil, oil filters, automotive fluids and alkaline batteries.
The suit came from an undercover probe launched in 2013 by investigators from the offices of dozens of county district attorneys in California, as well as state environmental regulators. The investigation found that O'Reilly customers who were working on their vehicles in store parking lots regularly put waste from that work into O'Reilly dumpsters and waste bins, which the company proceeded to illegally transport and dispose of in California landfills.
"They knew that customers were dumping hazardous waste into their own bins," said Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Ken Mifsud. "They knew it was happening, they allowed it to happen, and their own employees ended up dumping [the waste] into their own dumpsters."
Under the settlement, O'Reilly agreed to pay $6 million in civil penalties and contribute slightly more than $1.5 million to environmental projects in California. The suit also compels the company to spend $1.85 million to "reduce hazardous waste generation and enhance performance of hazardous waste management" at their California stores and distribution centers.
Mifsud said these improvements are already underway and include limiting the number of waste bins in O'Reilly parking lots, inspecting parking lots on a daily basis, sorting through customer waste on-site and removing any hazardous materials and locking on-site dumpsters. He said he was impressed with O'Reilly's cooperation throughout the process.
"They understand that this can't be just a paper program because at any time if we want to check to see how they're doing, we can do exactly what we did [this time]," Mifsud said.
"O'Reilly was pleased to work cooperatively with representatives of the various agencies involved and will continue to do so," O'Reilly spokesman Mark Merz said in a statement. "Compliance with California's expansive regulatory environment, while challenging, is important to O'Reilly, our customers and the residents of California."