American wireless carrier AT&T will pay $52 million to settle the electronic waste dumping case with California.
The hazardous wastes consisted primarily of discarded electronic equipment, batteries and aerosol cans, as well as certain liquids and gels used by AT&T service technicians.
According to investigators, AT&T has illegally disposed of hazardous wastes at more than 235 of its warehouses and dispatch centers across the state over a 9-year period.
Under the settlement agreement – announced on Thursday — with AT&T, the telecom operator will pay $23.8 million in civil penalties and other costs and spend an additional $28 million over the next five years to carry out enhanced environmental compliance measures required by the settlement.
“We take environmental stewardship seriously, and we’ve cooperated closely with the state and Alameda County to resolve this issue in a way that is in the best interests of the environment, our customers and all Californians,” said AT&T official spokesperson.
AT&T said the settlement recognizes the company for taking prompt action, dedicating significant additional resources toward environmental compliance, and improving our hazardous and universal waste management compliance programs.
A Reuters report said the development marked the first enforcement action in California against a telecom company for mishandling of electronic waste. The settlement must still be approved by the Alameda County Superior Court, where it was filed.
Inspections of trash dumpsters at those facilities by county prosecutors and state regulators found the company was routinely sending hazardous materials to local landfills not permitted to receive such contaminants.
“This settlement holds AT&T accountable for unlawfully dumping electronic waste,” said state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The report said AT&T admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, nor is it compelled to remove any of the waste it was found to have dumped illegally.
The revolutionary judgment expressly does not release AT&T from any liability for contamination in the event the Dallas-based company is named in a lawsuit seeking damages.
Verizon Communications, which competes with AT&T, is facing a similar investigation by California earlier this year.
AT&T will not undertake a costly cleanup necessary to ensure public health and deter similar dumping by others. This will be a major relief for AT&T which is looking for slashing Capex (capital spending) next year.