The 99 Cents Only Stores have agreed to pay more than $2.3 million as part of a settlement to a lawsuit filed by district and city attorneys throughout the state alleging the company illegally dumped hazardous materials such as aerosol cans, medication and batteries.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office represented the city in the lawsuit, which was filed in San Joaquin County by authorities in 29 cities and counties in California. The lawsuit alleged the violations were occurring at 99 Cents Only Stores throughout the state, but did not specifically name locations. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to implement new programs and protocols for waste disposal at all 251 stores in the state, including stores in the local area at 5270 Sunset Blvd., 601 and 621 S. Fairfax Ave., 6121 Wilshire Blvd. and 852 N. La Brea Ave.
“This judgment protects the environment and public health,” Los Angeles City Attorney City Attorney Mike Feuer said. “It demonstrates the strong commitment of prosecutors and environmental agencies throughout California to enforce our hazardous waste laws.”
Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said the settlement was reached in December. The lawsuit does not specifically address how long the violations had been occurring, but Mateljan said it was for an extended period of time, likely years. The investigation into the violations began in San Joaquin County.
The company’s ownership, 99 Cents Stores LLC, agreed to pay approximately $1.8 million in civil penalties to be divided among the cities and counties involved, as well as $312,500 in costs and $250,000 for environmental projects.
“The 99 Cents Only Stores have locations up and down the state, and we alleged that these violations were occurring at many, if not all of them,” Mateljan said. “It was a statewide effort that we were part of. It involved hazardous materials and pharmaceuticals. There are procedures for the proper disposal of things like aerosol cans and batteries and pills, and those [procedures] were not happening. When they are exposed to the environment, there are potential health and environmental effects.
Mateljan said there was no specific evidence of health or environmental issues that occurred as a result of the waste disposal, and the lawsuit sought to force the company to remedy the situation.
“The potential was there, and in the settlement, while they admitted no wrongdoing, the company agreed to take steps to address the allegations,” Mateljan added.
Maya Pogoda, a spokeswoman for the 99 Cents Only Stores LLC, declined to speak directly on the matter but issued a statement regarding the settlement.
“We are pleased to have achieved an amicable settlement with the district attorneys across California to resolve claims that largely occurred prior to 2012,” the statement read. “Since then, our company has improved its waste management protocols and has invested significant resources to ensure continued compliance with all state requirements. In connection with this settlement, we have agreed to go even further and retain a third-party consultant to monitor our stores periodically as well as implement a handheld scanning program to identify hazardous wastes at all California stores and ensure their proper handling and disposal.”
The 99 Cents Only Stores chain was started by the late business entrepreneur David Gold, a longtime Carthay Circle resident who formerly owned a liquor store downtown, and came up with an idea to price products at 99 cents each. The first 99 Cents Only Store opened in 1982 on La Tijera Boulevard in the Westchester area, and the store quickly became very popular among shoppers searching for a bargain.
The first store in the local area opened in 1989 at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and 6th Street, and the store remains open today. A few years later, Gold opened another store a few block away at 6121 Wilshire Blvd., and the other stores in the local area opened in subsequent years.
The Gold Family sold the 99 Cents Only Stores for $1.6 billion in 2011 to the Ares Management company and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which now operate the City of Commerce-based chain as a limited liability corporation. Gold died in 2013 at the age of 80. The settlement specifically names 99 Cents Only Stores LLC, and contains no reference to any violations occurring during the period when the company was privately owned by the Gold family.
As part of the settlement, the 99 Cents Only Stores LLC agreed to report on the status of the disposal program implementation in six months, and agreed to ongoing monitoring by authoritiesMateljan said the company was amicable in reaching the settlement.
“It was a very quick resolution. The company was generally cooperative when we brought the allegations to them,” Mateljan added. “[We were] able to work out a satisfactory resolution to this case.”
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.