A trucking company was ordered to pay $3 million for illegally transporting more than 64 tons of hazardous, lead-contaminated plastic battery chips from the now-closed Exide Technologies battery recycling facility in Vernon to a company in Bakersfield, it was announced Tuesday.
Wiley Sanders Truck Lines Inc., which is based in Troy, Alabama, was ordered Monday to pay the money as part of a sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, who placed the company on probation for three years and described its conduct as “an environmental disaster for Vernon and the surrounding area,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As part of the sentence, Anderson ordered Wiley Sanders to pay a $1.5 million fine — the statutory maximum — and a $1.5 million community service payment to the Exide Residential Assistance Fund established by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to support residents affected by lead contamination near the facility.
On Feb. 25, the company pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to three felony counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials.
Wiley Sanders specifically admitted in its plea agreement that, on three occasions between November 2013 and March 2014, it willfully and recklessly transported a total of 64.42 tons of lead-contaminated plastic chips from Vernon to Bakersfield.
The company also admitted knowing that the trailers it used to transport the battery plastic chips did not contain any lining or inner packing material to prevent liquids and semi-solids from leaking through cracks and other openings in the trailers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Lead-contaminated residue leaked out of the trailers when Wiley Sanders drivers transported the battery chips from Vernon to Bakersfield, according to the government. Wiley Sanders truck drivers occasionally transported the semi-trailers on public roads before the plastic chips had dried, despite the fact that the lead-contaminated chips and resulting lead-contaminated liquid residue would leak out of the trailers. federal prosecutors said.
There is no known safe level of lead in human blood.
In 2015, Exide Technologies reached an agreement with the U.S. government that called for the battery manufacturing company to close its recycling facility in Vernon and pay an estimated $50 million to clean up the site and surrounding neighborhoods that have been affected by environmental toxins for decades.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: