Autozone Reaches $11M Settlement For Hazardous Waste Dumping

Investigators found potentially toxic materials like batteries and unredacted customer information in several of its dumpsters.

Autozone on South Van Ness Avenue. (Photo courtesy Google Maps)

Autozone will pay various California counties a total of $11 million for the alleged illegal dumping of hazardous waste and compromised consumer information, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced Tuesday.

A statewide investigation joined by San Francisco found that the auto parts company routinely disposed of several hazardous materials — like batteries and automotive fluid — in 45 California counties in a way that didn’t comply with state law. (There are 58 counties in the state.)

This came out of 56 inspections of Autzone dumpsters conducted between 2013 and 2015, which also found customer records that were still readable in the dumpsters — another violation of state law. 

“When companies take shortcuts that jeopardize the livability of our communities, it’s up to California to hold them accountable and protect our environment for future generations,” Gascón said.  “This is especially true in an era where the federal government is actively rolling the clock back on the most basic environmental protections.”

Thanks to San Francisco’s aversion to chain stores, there exists just one Autozone in the city on South Van Ness Avenue and 26th street.  Still, San Francisco’s slice of the lawsuit amounts to $440,000 in civil penalties and $20,000 in prosecutor costs. 

Alameda County hit the company with nearly $1 million in civil penalties while Ventura and Yolo counties followed with $817,000 and $770,000 in penalties, respectively. District attorneys in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties also joined the effort brought together by the California Attorney General’s Office. 

In addition to the penalties totaling $8.9 million and reimbursing the aggregate $750,000 cost of the investigation, Autozone must pay $1.35 million for environmental projects. The company, with 600 stores nationwide, will also undergo an audit that will be shared with the public.

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