Bed, Bath & Beyond will pay nearly $1.5 million as part of a civil enforcement lawsuit stemming from allegations that more than 200 of its California stores dumped hazardous materials in local landfills, including in San Diego County, the District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

The New Jersey-based company, which operates 17 stores in San Diego County, was ordered by a Ventura County Superior Court judge to pay the penalties, which stemmed from a lawsuit alleging its stores unlawfully handled, transported and disposed of batteries, electronic devices, ignitable liquids, aerosol products, cleaning agents and other flammable, reactive, toxic and corrosive materials at local landfills that were not permitted to receive such waste.

The judgment is composed of $1,327,500 in civil penalties and reimbursement of investigation and prosecution costs. Of that amount, $94,800 will be paid to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and $18,500 to the San Diego County Environmental Health Division. The company will also pay an additional $171,250 to fund environmental projects supporting environmental enforcement in California.

According to the DA’s Office, the investigation began after a fire ignited in late 2015 at the Del Norte Transfer Facility in Oxnard, in Ventura County. A bag of waste from the Oxnard Bed, Bath & Beyond store containing electronic items, lithium batteries and a small can of lighter fluid, among other items, burst into flames.

Another fire broke out about four months later in the trash compactor at the rear of the Oxnard store, where investigators found batteries, broken compact fluorescent bulbs and discarded electronic devices.

The ensuing investigation by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, Ventura County and other prosecutorial and environmental regulatory officials found similar hazardous wastes were sent from the company’s stores to landfills throughout the state.

The DA’s Office said the company has since taken steps to comply with regulations and improve its regulated waste management program, with self- audits of its compactors and waste bins performed regularly.

“This judgment once again reveals how some companies doing business in California continue to ignore laws put in place to protect the environment and our community’s health and safety,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Our Environmental Protection Unit continues to work with our colleagues up and down the state to hold corporations accountable.”

— City News Service

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