Telecommunications giant AT&T has reached a $52 million settlement with the state of California for illegally dumping scrap electronics in state landfills.
The settlement was announced on Nov. 20 by California’s attorney general and was decribed by state officials as their first e-scrap management enforcement action against a telecom company.
“This settlement holds AT&T accountable for unlawfully dumping electronic waste,” Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said in the release. “The illegal disposal of hazardous waste can lead to serious environmental and health risks for California communities. AT&T will be required to implement strict compliance measures at its facilities that set an example for other companies to safeguard our communities against hazardous waste.”
The settlement, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, calls for the company to pay $23.8 million in fines. In addition, AT&T has committed to spending an additional $28 million over the next five years to further improve its compliance.
However, AT&T is not required to recover material it has been accused of already disposing. It is not known how much material was landfilled in California by the company.
In a statement sent to E-Scrap News, AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter said the company will be putting significant resources toward improving management of e-scrap.
“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,” Richter said in the statement. “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. ”
In 2011, representatives from California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office conducted a series of inspections at various AT&T facilities throughout the state. Those inspections led to the conclusion that the company had been knowingly disposing of electronics, some of which contained hazardous materials, for nine years.
“The inspections revealed that AT&T was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills that were not permitted to receive those wastes,” last month’s attorney general announcement states.
Upon being informed of the inspection results, “AT&T immediately agreed to cooperate and promptly implemented measures to halt the removal of regular trash until it could be inspected to remove any potentially hazardous wastes before they reached municipal landfills,” the notice adds.