Fifty-one counties and two cities sued the company.
Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig says his office began investigating after learning Rite Aid stores had reported disposing of significantly fewer expired products in landfills compared to other stores of similar size.
"We were one of the first counties to participate in what we call 'dumpster dives' which is where we actually follow the trash from the store to the landfill and then search it as it is being dumped," says Reisig. "And it was during that search in 2010 that we discovered large quantities of hazardous materials."
Five stores in Yolo County were found dumping expired products and drugs in store dumpsters. Yolo County's share of the settlement is $600,000.
Reisig says the amount of environmental damage caused by the stores is impossible to calculate.
"Pesticides, medications, batteries, biohazardous waste, some solvents, nail polish, nail remover, aerosols, automotive products," lists Reisig. "So, it was just a hodge podge of hazardous materials that simply shouldn't have been going to the landfill."
Reisig says Rite Aid cooperated with the investigation, which hasn't always been true in other illegal dumping cases. Some of the settlement will go to county agencies for expenses and training in dealing with hazardous waste.
Wal Greens was fined more than $16 million last December for similar improper practices.
Reisig says this will likely not be the last case of its kind to be prosecuted.