O’Reilly Auto Parts and its subsidiaries will pay a settlement of $9.86 million for allegedly mishandling hazardous waste at more than 525 of its stores throughout California, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward announced.
According to court documents, about $70,000 in civil penalties will be paid to district attorney’s offices in the San Joaquin Valley. Tulare County will receive $44,875.
The investigation found that over a five-year period the California O’Reilly stores handled, transported and disposed of used oil, used oil filters and various other hazardous waste and materials unlawfully, Ward said. These included automotive fluids, alkaline batteries, electronic waste, aerosol cans and other toxic, flammable and harmful wastes.
The undercover investigation started in 2013. A lawsuit alleging the illegal acts was filed in November 2016. Officials said they found that 42 of 43 O’Reilly stores investigated statewide and both the chain’s distribution centers were in violation of state law. The stores routinely sent hazardous wastes to local landfills that weren’t permitted to receive those materials, authorities said. They also concluded that the auto parts store chain did not have the required licensing to transport hazardous waste to distribution centers.
Of the nine stores in Tulare, three were inspected and all were found to have disposed of hazardous waste unlawfully, investigators said.
Throughout the investigation, Ward said, O’Reilly was cooperative and quickly adjusted its policies and procedures to stop the illegal dumping of hazardous waste. Under settlement terms, they are prohibited from violating any similar laws in the future.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman ordered O’Reilly to pay $6 million in civil penalties, $500,000 for the reimbursement of the investigation, $1.51 million to supplement environmental projects and $1.85 million to assist hazardous waste minimization and enhanced compliance projects.