Telecommunications giant AT&T Inc. has settled with the state of California to pay almost $52 million in civil penalties and environmental compliance after the company was cited for illegally dumping hazardous electronic waste.

ewaste1

The civil enforcement action and proposed settlement against AT&T were filed on Thursday, alleging that the company “unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials” at more than 235 AT&T warehouses and dispatch facilities across the state over a nine-year period.

“This settlement holds AT&T accountable for unlawfully dumping electronic waste,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris in a press 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 follows a 2011 investigation by inspectors from the Environmental Protection Division of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. E-waste can include a range of toxic substances, including lead, mercury and arsenic, and can contaminate soil and water when disposed of in landfills instead of appointed e-waste recycling locations.

However, the settlement does not require AT&T to admit to any wrongdoing, nor will it compel the company to properly dispose of the e-waste.

ewaste2By the terms of the settlement, AT&T must pay $23.8 million in civil penalties and other costs and spend $28 million over the next five years to implement “enhanced environmental compliance measures.” In the coming years, AT&T will also undergo three independent audits and “hundreds of unannounced dumpster inspections.”

Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit, told Reuters that the punishment does not go far enough.

“They’re being fined what amounts to chump change for a company like AT&T, and the public is not going to be protected in the end because wherever they’ve illegally disposed of that waste, it’s going to stay there,” she said.

The accumulation of electronic waste is a growing problem in both the developed world (where it is produced) and the developing world (where it is often dumped). The UN has predicted that e-waste will grow by 33 percent in the next four years.

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One Response

  1. Clarence001 says:

    Nice thought.

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