A trucking company alleged to have unlawfully transported more than 128,000 pounds of lead-contaminated plastic battery chips from the now-shuttered Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon to a facility in Bakersfield, Calif., that was not permitted to accept such hazardous waste will contribute $1.82 million to a Los Angeles County environmental fund established to help communities harmed by Exide, according to a lawsuit and settlement filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The lawsuit, which also includes a settlement agreement, alleges that Wiley Sanders Truck Lines violated California’s hazardous waste control, unlawful business practice, and public nuisance laws for dozens of years by allowing hazardous plastic battery casings contaminated with lead to leak from its trucks onto the ground, streets, and freeways during transportation from the Exide facility in Vernon to another facility in Kern County. Wiley Sanders is alleged to have neglected to treat the plastic battery casings as a hazardous waste, according to the lawsuit filed by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and attorneys representing LA County.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Wiley Sanders, a motor carrier based in Alabama, is prohibited from transporting hazardous waste in the County of Los Angeles. In addition, Wiley Sanders will provide $1.82 million to the County Department of Public Health’s Environmental Response and Assessment Fund for public health outreach and programs in neighborhoods affected by Exide. Wiley Sanders will also pay $565,000 in civil penalties to resolve unfair competition law violations, as well as costs of enforcement.
“For decades, hard-working families were unaware that trucks leaving Exide’s facility illegally carried and leaked hazardous waste into the community and endangered the health and safety of children and others. It is unacceptable and a human rights violation that unsuspecting children and families at nearby schoolyards and parks were potentially exposed to these hazardous materials,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who has advocated on behalf of families harmed by Exide which is located in her First District. “LA County residents affected by Exide are not alone. Their voices, their health, and their lives matter, and LA County will continue to advocate on behalf of the families who have suffered for so many years. We are working to make these families whole.”
In 2015, Exide shut down after decades of discharging harmful pollutants into nearby communities while operating under an illegal permit. Since then, Supervisor Solis has advocated on behalf of the communities surrounding the shuttered plant and has worked with the State of California to ensure that the State expedites the cleanup of contaminated properties.
“The County team is continuing its work to ensure the voices of this community are heard, and to work with State officials in establishing funding to sustain the residential cleanup until work on the last contaminated home is finished,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Los Angeles County Public Health. “We will make good use of the Wiley Sanders settlement funds in reaching those objectives.”
DPH will use the $1.82 million for (1) verification testing, analysis, and assessment of soils and exterior/interior dust following the State of California clean-up of residential properties impacted by the Exide facility; (2) assistance to residents in abating lead and lead-paint hazards; (3) Los Angeles County public health and safety outreach, including education and advocacy activities; and (4) educational and learning disability assessment and intervention for children who reside within the communities impacted by the Exide facility.
As part of a separate plea deal with the United States Attorney’s Office, Wiley Sanders has also pleaded guilty to a federal crime for hazardous waste transportation violations.