Missing the Mark

Posted June 25, 2009 in News

On March 24, the PR head honchos at Target’s corporate office posted this safety and security press release on www.target.com:


Target is committed to ensuring a safe and secure shopping and working environment for our guests and team members. We have extensive security systems and procedures in place to ensure the safety and security of everyone in our stores.


While obviously meant to reassure the shopping masses, less than three months after the release of this public-safety missive, the retail giant stands accused by Riverside and state officials of doing just the opposite: creating an unsafe shopping and working environment for not only its guests, but also workers and residents of a nearby landfill. Officials allege that the Riverside Target on Tyler Street, in July 2008, dumped 20 pounds of legal fireworks into a trash compactor, which were then transported by a garbage hauler that wasn’t authorized to carry the stuff since its considered hazardous waste. The pyrotechnic paraphernalia was later discovered at a landfill.


This alleged incident is one of many violations the retail chain faces in a lawsuit by the state Attorney General along with 20 district attorney’s offices from across California. Riverside County DA Rod Pacheco threw his litigating weight behind the suit.


“Protecting our environment of our communities is one of our top priorities,” Pacheco said via a June 15 press release.


The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County, accused more than 200 Target stores of routinely disposing of hazardous materials illegally over an eight-year period. The alleged violation at the Tyler Street location was discovered by a load checker hired by Riverside County to inspect compacted trash at the landfill before it was deposited.


Dale Hoy, the deputy district attorney for the Special Prosecution Environmental Unit, said the county worker then notified HazMat inspectors. A little HazMat CSU later, the fireworks were traced to the Target store.


The Riverside case is unique as most of Target’s alleged violations in other counties relate to the improper disposal of aerosol cans, household chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, swimming pool chlorine, solvents, automotive products and paint.


But Hoy insists that fireworks could create dangerous situations for landfill workers and the surrounding communities’ soil and water supply.


“Not only do you have bulldozers running around there, but you also have other people on the property depositing items,” says Hoy. “Running over a pile of hazardous materials could start an explosion.” Hoy also says some chemicals have the potential to cause fires and breach the plastic linings of landfills, seeping into the soil and contaminating the water table.


In the suit, attorneys’ ask that Target be found liable for civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.


Target, which has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit, fired off its own volley, issuing its own press statement in response to the allegations. In it, Target contends that it is “proud to have a best in-class program for proper handling and disposal of environmentally sensitive products.” Further down, it mentions the corporation’s attempt at transparency with the attorney general’s office, offering tours and inspections of its facilities.


But methinks Target felt a lawsuit was a bit much:


“We are very disappointed that the Attorney General has chosen to take this step.”


As of now, Target has not responded formally to the lawsuit and it is not yet known whether or not the case will go to trial or end up settled out of court.




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