An Alameda County judge ordered Kelly-Moore Paint Company to pay $1.43 million and institute new protocols within its operations as part of a settlement in a civil enforcement case stemming from illegal hazardous waste dumping at Kelly-Moore stores across 10 California counties, including all four Tri-Valley locations, prosecutors said Monday.
The settlement also resolves allegations that Kelly-Moore stores failed to shred customer records with confidential information before disposal, according to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, whose office spearheaded the prosecution of the civil case.
"A top priority of my office is the protection of our environment," O'Malley said in a statement. "By improperly disposing of hazardous wastes, Kelly-Moore violated California laws designed to safeguard the state's natural resources."
"We will continue to investigate and prosecute instances of illegal disposal of hazardous waste in our ongoing effort to preserve and protect the soil, waterways and air that are vital to our health and well-being," O'Malley added.
Contra Costa County DA Diana Becton, whose office joined in the lawsuit, said her office "will always strive to protect the environment and public health by holding companies accountable for violating our environmental laws. This settlement not only acts as a deterrent against other potential violators but more importantly contains injunctive provisions to ensure Kelly-Moore will maintain environmental compliance into the foreseeable future."
The investigation of Kelly-Moore -- which owns or operates 106 retail stores statewide -- ran from March 2016 to December 2018, initiated by California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) and led by the Alameda County DA's Environmental Protection Unit. Investigators in counties across California conducted a series of undercover inspections of waste bins from 29 different Kelly-Moore stores.
According to O'Malley, the inspections revealed "numerous instances" of state law violations in the form of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste materials such as paint colorants, paint, electronic devices, aerosol products and other hazardous wastes. The store employees would just toss the materials into company waste bins headed for municipal landfills not authorized to accept hazardous waste.
Investigators also allegedly discovered Kelly-Moore employees also improperly disposed of customer records without having rendered personal information unreadable, such as by shredding, in violation of state laws meant to protect confidential consumer information.
"When Kelly-Moore officials were notified by the prosecutors of the unlawful disposals, they immediately agreed to cooperate and promptly implemented measures and dedicated additional resources towards environmental compliance at its stores throughout California," prosecutors said.
Thirteen stores in Alameda County were on the violation list, including the Pleasanton store on Hopyard Road, the Livermore store on First Street and the Dublin store on Amador Plaza Road, according to prosecutors. Also in violation were the store on San Ramon Valley Boulevard in San Ramon and on North Main Street in Walnut Creek.
In all, DAs from nine other counties joined in O'Malley's lawsuit -- Contra Costa, Monterey, Placer, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and Yolo.
The settlement order, handed down by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara M. Desautels, requires a monetary payment of $1.43 million consisting of $825,000 for civil penalties, $178,750 for supplemental environmental projects and $425,000 for reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs. (Kelly-Moore can get a credit of $125,000 against the penalties if it undertakes at least $250,000 in environmental enhancement work not required by law, according to O'Malley.)
Other settlement provisions include requiring Kelly-Moore to hire a California-based compliance employee to oversee its hazardous waste compliance program and conduct a public audit of company trash bins to ensure hazmat waste and consumer records are properly disposed of at all sites.
The company must also comply with 28 injunctive requirements pertaining to environmental and confidential consumer information protection laws.