California’s attorney general and 20 district attorneys filed a lawsuit against Target Corp. today that accuses the retailer of dumping pesticides, propane canisters and other hazardous waste in local landfills.

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, 20 district attorneys and the Los Angeles City Attorney claim Target has improperly disposed of the hazardous waste for the last eight years and seek to block further toxic dumping. The retailer has received more than 300 notices since 2001 for violating the state’s hazardous waste control laws.

California and three county district attorneys settled a similar lawsuit (PDF) with Kmart last month. The retailer must pay $8.65 million in penalties, costs and funding for environmental protection in the state.

"If successful, this lawsuit would force Target to comply with state laws governing the lawful handling and disposal of toxic and corrosive waste," Brown said in a statement. "By contrast, Kmart has cooperated, agreed to live up to its obligations under the law and will train its employees to properly handle and dispose of hazardous waste."

By law, Target must properly handle and dispose of products that are returned, expired or damaged. A licensed waste hauler must pick up any of these items with hazardous properties, such as bleach, paints, oven cleaners, and aerosol and automotive products.

According to the lawsuit, a San Joaquin County Target worker told inspectors in December the store was dumping pesticides and other hazardous waste into its trash compactor that is sent to the local landfill.

In January 2008, the lawsuit said, several Target stores in Los Angeles County sent several tons of unsaleable items to a local food bank, including more than 5,000 pounds of defective and leaking products that were flammable, toxic or corrosive. A hazardous waste hauler was called in to dispose of the items at a cost of $5,000.

In 2002, a Target worker in Sacramento County put leaking liquid pool chlorine containers in the store’s trash compactor, which generated toxic fumes when the chlorine reacted with other chemicals, the lawsuit said. The store was evacuated and several people were sent to the hospital.

The lawsuit (PDF), filed in Superior Court in Alameda County, alleges the following violations, each of which carries a maximum penalty of $25,000:
•   Intentional and negligent disposal of hazardous waste at a point not authorized in violation of California’s Health and Safety Code
•   Intentional and negligent unauthorized transportation of hazardous waste in violation of California's Health and Safety Code
•   Intentional and negligent violations of Hazardous Waste Control Laws for Hazardous Waste Handling Training and Storage Requirements in violation of California's Health and Safety Code
•   Knowing violations of Hazardous Materials Release Response Plans and Inventory Laws in violation of California's Health and Safety Code
•   Violations of Unfair Competition Laws
Image CC licensed by Flickr user j.reed.