99¢ Only Stores Fined Enough to Afford 413,626 Items
The chain was on the losing end of an Environmental Protection Agency suit claiming it had sold hundreds of bottles of cleaning and pesticide products that were not regulated with the EPA, in violation of the law. The cleaners in question were Bref's Limpieza y Disinfección Total con Densicloro (Complete Cleaning and Disinfection with 'Densicloro', a Mexican-made product); Farmer's Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner," and "PiC BORIC ACID Roach Killer III."
The EPA claims the first two products were unregistered, and the roach killer was "misbranded," as its EPA labes were upside-down or inside out, and difficult to read.
The ruling was originally handed down in June by Administrative Law Judge Susan L. Biro, and EPA officials say the appeal period expired today. SF Weekly's messages for 99¢ Only -- which offers callers "99 thanks" for dialing -- have not yet been returned.
Biro found the chain had violated Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act -- to the tune of 166 counts -- going back to cleaner and pesticide sales from early in the decade. While the EPA had pushed for a fine of nearly $960,000, Biro methodically reassessed the penalty via dozens of criteria -- culpability, toxicity, etc. -- over scores of pages. Biro found the EPA's desire of a nearly $1 million fine "unduly high" -- in large part because no proof has yet been offered that anyone was harmed by the unregulated products.
In the end, she settled on $409,490 -- far below the the max penalty of $6,500 per violation. Doing the math, the fine works out to $5,850 for the one count of selling the Farmer's Secret; $2,439 per violation for the 164 counts of peddling Bref; and $3,640 for the single count of selling PiC. The largest prior penalty assessed under FIFRA was around a quarter of a million dollars, incidentally.
Finally, you won't find any 99¢ Only stores -- or the aforementioned chemicals -- in San Francisco. But more than a dozen are within driving distance in the greater Bay Area.