What a waste! Home Depot yesterday admitted to improperly storing and transporting hazardous waste — and dumped out $10 million to settle the case with the state of California. The incident happened three years ago at the Home Depot in Marina del Rey, California, when a 55 gallon drum with hazardous materials exploded in a back room, triggering a fire, and forcing the evacuation of the store. After the fire was put out, Home Depot’s problems did not end there. The company hired a waste hauler who transported the waste away in an uncertified truck. “Waste haulers must be certified by the state,” an assistant head deputy for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s Consumer Protection Division told The Times. “Home Depot was required to hire haulers that are certified.” Prosecutors from the state, and Los Angeles County, charged the company with improperly handling and transporting hazardous sludge. Investigators determined that the company had been mixing chemicals together, which caused the explosion. California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown told the Los Angeles Times that his office was investigating other companies, including “some big, large names.” “Home Depot is not the only company that has problems,” Brown admitted. “Because of a cost-cutting campaign under the last CEO (Robert Nardelli), safety measures definitely declined. So now, under pressure of my office and that of a number of county district attorneys, they’ve totally revamped their procedures and put themselves in a position to deal with hazardous materials in a sound way.” In response to the fine, Home Depot issued a statement which said, “We have been working with the state officials to address their concerns, and have developed and implemented a best-in-class program for labeling and disposing of the waste generated in our stores.” A spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office for Environmental Justice and Protection said, “These big-box outlets have become mini-chemical warehouses.” The $10 million settlement was estimated to be the largest hazardous waste case involving a big box store. Out of the total $10 million penalty, Home Depot will have to pay the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office $837,000 in civil penalties and costs, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department will get $250,000.
The investigators found that Home Depot stores all across California were improperly storing their hazardous wastes, while awaiting for off-site disposal. The haulers who removed the waste improperly stored and labeled the waste, and did not keep good records of materials about to be transported. Most communities have no idea of the kinds, and amounts of hazardous materials that are stored at Home Depot. Each store acts as its own warehouse, so many hazardous products are literally stored above the heads of the customers who shop at Home Depot. Some communities now require big box stores to file an inventory of hazardous materials the store keeps on site, so fire authorities know what they are dealing with in the case of a fire. There have been several very serious fires at home improvement chains like Home Depot and Lowe’s, and such fires present unique challenges to fire fighters, because of the ‘sky shelves’ configuration of the store. For a copy of the hazardous materials inventory of a Home Depot store in Oxnard, California, contact Sprawl-Busters at [email protected] The list is extensive, and surprising. Neighbors need to understand that when Home Depot comes to town, its like gaining a “mini-chemical warehouse” as a neighbor. Search Newflash by “fire” or “chemical” to see related stories.