Santa Clara County judge orders Firestone to pay $4M

Shops accused of illegally dumping hazardous waste

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A $4 million settlement was reached between Firestone Complete Auto Care and prosecutors in 29 counties over allegations that Firestone disposed of hazardous waste unlawfully in California.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Christopher Rudy on Friday ordered civil penalties of $2.865 million, which will be paid by Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC. Bridgestone does business as Firestone Complete Auto Care at more than 150 locations in the state.

Rudy also ordered Firestone to pay $350,000 to cover the cost of the investigation and $725,000 for compliance and training. 

“My office will continue to hold companies accountable for the harm they cause to Alameda County’s precious natural resources by violating our state’s important environmental laws,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a statement. “We are proud to work with our fellow prosecutors and environmental agencies statewide on this important enforcement action.”

Prosecutors alleged that Firestone did not manage hazardous waste properly, including solvents, automotive fluids, batteries, aerosols and electronics. 

Prosecutors also alleged that Firestone failed to shred or redact confidential customer details on paperwork before throwing the papers away. 

The investigation that led to the allegations began in 2016. Investigators from Alameda and Santa Clara counties went to Firestone locations unannounced and inspected trash containers. Inside were customer records and containers at least filled partially with hazardous waste, prosecutors said. 

Over the next three years, additional inspections were made in Alameda, Santa Clara, San Diego, San Bernardino and Orange counties, according to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. 

“We were informed in October 2019 of a three-year investigation by certain California District Attorneys that uncovered potential gaps in the implementation of our policies regarding the handling and disposal of hazardous waste and customer information,” Bridgestone spokeswoman Rachel Withers said. 

“As an organization, we moved immediately to address these issues through a number of measures,” Withers said. “We have increased teammate training activities and resources across our California stores, hired a dedicated California compliance officer, and established an updated compliance review process to ensure full compliance with our own internal standards as well as those of the relevant regulatory agencies.”

Prosecutors agreed that Firestone cooperated with them during the investigation and made efforts to comply with the violations brought to light.

Prosecutors statewide have succeeded in holding large automotive companies responsible for hazardous waste violations in the last several years.

Prior judgments include one against Service King in 2019 for $2.3 million, Pep Boys in 2019 for $3.7 million, AutoZone in 2019 for $11 million, Cooks Collision in 2018 for $1.5 million, AutoNation in 2018 for $3.3 million and O’Reilly Auto Parts in 2016 for $9.8 million.

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