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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 27th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 42

Santa Barbara County will receive millions from a settlement with Walgreens

BY CHRIS AGUILAR

A $16.57 million settlement to Santa Barbara and other California counties was reached on Dec. 13 in an investigation of Walgreens, the nation’s largest drug store chain, for environmental violations, according to a report from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

The 2011 crackdown from inspectors led by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, Environmental Protection Agency, and other investigation teams from all over California is the end result of a look into the drug store’s handling of hazardous wastes and materials over a 6 1/2-year period.

Among the toxic substances found to be mishandled were pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, automotive products, and solvents. Bio and pharmaceutical wastes and corrosive materials were also found to be mishandled, according to the report.

The report goes on to state the settlement also resolves allegations that Walgreens had unlawfully disposed of customer records containing confidential medical information without preserving the confidentiality of the information. Numerous requests for further comment from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and Walgreens Corporate Communications Office weren’t returned as of press time.

News of the settlement comes on the heels of Walgreens reporting a decrease in sales in November of 3.9 percent. Sales in fiscal 2012 were reported at $6.09 billion, yet this year’s numbers took a downturn to $5.85 billion, according to Walgreens website. The website also states total sales were down in fiscal 2012 overall by a margin of 21.6 percent.

“Thanks to the outstanding investigative and legal efforts of the district attorney inspectors and environmental prosecutors from district attorney offices around the state, we can announce this significant victory for our citizens and our natural resources,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in a written statement posted on the county website.

Of the monies awarded by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carville, Santa Barbara County will receive $24,000, according to the report. The report further states that $4,000 in civil penalties and cost recovery will go to Santa Barbara County Fire Department regulators. The remaining $20,000 is awarded for civil penalties and cost recovery to the District Attorney’s Office.

Other counties benefiting from the award are Alameda, San Joaquin, Solano, Monterey, Riverside, Yolo, and Los Angeles.

The settlement also requires Walgreens to take proper steps to ensure the preservation of pharmacy customer’s privacy and medical information and in compliance of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, (HIPAA) of 1996. Walgreens operates 8,050 stores in 50 states nationwide and Puerto Rico.

News Briefs is compiled by Sun writers from staff reporting and local and national media. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.