Home Depot has agreed to pay $8 million for allegedly selling tens of thousands of gallons of paint, sealer, primer and other coating that violated environmental regulations in Southern California stores.
The agreement, which Home Depot announced Thursday, is the result of a civil lawsuit filed against the home improvement corporation by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the district attorney's offices of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and the Los Angeles City Attorney's office.
The $8 million settlement will be paid to AQMD and the attorney offices: $1.98 million to AQMD and $1.48 million each to LA and the three counties involved in the civil suit. Each plaintiff will also be paid $100,000 to cover the costs of investigating the violations, according to a press release issued by the Riverside County District Attorney’s office.
“We’re very happy with the results because we actually affected a huge change of procedure,” said Elise Farrell, deputy district attorney for Riverside County’s consumer fraud unit.
Home Depot has modified its products to adhere to the AQMD regulations that it previously violated, according to the release.
The paints, sealers and primers mentioned in the lawsuit allegedly contained illegal levels of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can create air pollutants when combined with nitrogen oxides.
"Paints and other coatings are one of our largest sources of air pollution,” Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of AQMD, said in a statement. “Since the Southland has the most severe air pollution problem in the nation, our standards limiting the polluting ingredients must be enforced.”
Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said the home improvement retailer is “industry leading” in innovation and environmental friendly products. The corporation introduced low-VOC paints and then no-VOC paints over the past several years, he said.
The violations alleged in the lawsuit could have occurred at any number of points in the supply chain, he said.
“It can be anything,” Holmes said. “A vendor who was unclear about the specificity of the regulation may have shipped the wrong product and then the store may not have known … there could have been situations where a customer returned a product that was put back on the shelf.”
The district attorney offices have planned to use the money received from the settlement to assist in future prosecutions of unfair business practices, Farrell said. Customers will not receive a portion of the settlement because tracking product purchases to customers is not possible, he said.
“If anyone believes they purchased a product that is illegal, they should go to Home Depot and ask to swap,” Farrell said.
Customers with questions about purchased products should contact Home Depot directly, Farrell said.