In a San Joaquin Superior Court judgement on Tuesday, Los Angeles-based discount retailer 99 Cents Only Stores was levied a penalty of $2.36m for dumping hazardous retail waste illegally in the state of California.

Just the previous day, supermarket stalwart Safeway consented to settle claims for about $10m regarding the dumping of medicines, household chemicals, cleaners, nail polish and hair dye by its California stores.

Diane Taira, a Solano County deputy district attorney in her office’s Consumer and Environmental Crimes Unit, stated: "Much of the latest award — about $1.8m in civil penalties — will be distributed to counties with 99 Cents Only Stores locations to promote environmental prosecutions in those jurisdictions."

On the whole 29 cities and counties of California will be beneficiaries of the settlement, with Solano County being one of the lead plaintiffs. Other counties include San Joaquin, Placer, Fresno, Sacramento, Yolo, Stanislaus and Merced.

"Our primary goal is compliance. We’re doing our best to keep California’s environment safe," averred Taira.

According to Taira, 99 Cents Only was first warned by authorities in 2013 to improve its disposal procedures as state-sponsored investigations or ‘dumpster dives’ found store employees disposing of the retail waste illegally in area landfills and dumpsters.

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According to a statement by Solano County district attorney’s office, now the waste is being collected by state-regulated haulers and disposed of at proper sites designated for the purpose.

As per 99 Cents Only, many of the settled claims occurred prior to 2012, and since then the discounter had improved its waste disposal process. The stores had also hired a consultant to monitor its outlets every once in a while. Apart from this, they had implemented a programme at their California stores that identified toxic wastes through a handheld scanning device and ensuredthese were properly disposed.

The discounter has 251 outlets as well as distribution centres all over California.