AT&T fined $23.5 million for dumping e-waste

AT&T has agreed to a $23.8 million settlement with state and local prosecutors over allegations that the company improperly disposed of hazardous waste at facilities throughout California over a nine-year period, state Attorney General Kamela Harris and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced Thursday.

The hazardous waste — which includes electronics, batteries, aerosols, liquids, gels and chemicals used by AT&T service technicians — was improperly disposed of at 235 warehouse and dispatch facilities statewide, according to O’Malley and Harris’s offices.

In addition to the $23.8 million settlement, AT&T will be required to update its facilities to implement new environmental compliance measures over the next five years.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division investigators first uncovered the violations while inspecting dumpsters at AT&T warehouse and dispatch facilities in 2011. They discovered that the company was routinely sending the waste to local landfills that were not permitted to receive it.

Of 13 AT&T facilities in Alameda County, all 13 were found to be unlawfully disposing hazardous waste. Investigators then determined that 235 facilities statewide had similar practices, including many in the Bay Area.

Harris said in a statement:

“This settlement holds AT&T accountable for unlawfully dumping electronic waste. … The illegal disposal of hazardous waste can lead to serious environmental and health risks for California communities.”

When notified of the investigation, AT&T agreed to cooperate and took immediate measures to stop trash removal from its facilities to check it for hazardous waste before sending it to landfills.

Among the steps the company has already taken is implementing “staging bins” for its trash so that their contents can be inspected before being sent to the trash, and has made hundreds of unannounced inspections, according to O’Malley and Harris’s offices.