Photo by Art Torres

An Alabama-based trucking company will pay Los Angeles County more than $1.8 million to settle a lawsuit over its handling of hazardous waste from the now-defunct Exide battery plant in Vernon.

The county announced the settlement of its suit against Wiley Sanders Truck Lines on Thursday. Its suit had alleged that the company illegally transported more than 128,000 pounds of plastic battery chips contaminated with lead to a facility in Bakersfield over “dozens of years.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a press release announcing the settlement that the trucking company allegedly failed to take the proper precautions when transporting the chips, as required for hazardous waste under state law, allowing lead contaminants to leak out onto the ground, streets and highways.

“For decades, hard-working families were unaware that trucks leaving Exide’s facility illegally carried and leaked hazardous wastes into the community and endangered the health and safety of children and others,” Solis said, according to MyNewsLA. “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.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Wiley Sanders will pay $1.82 million to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Environmental Response and Assessment Fund, which provides public health programs in communities affected by Exide, including Boyle Heights. The company will also pay $565,000 in civil penalties, MyNewsLA reported, and is prohibited from transporting hazardous waste in Los Angeles County.

The company was not immediately available for comment.

Wiley Sanders already paid $1.5 million in federal penalties and another $1.5 million to DPH after pleading guilty to violating hazardous materials transportation regulations in February, according to the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General. The OIG charged the company in January with transporting plastic battery chips on three occasions in 2013 and 2014.

The Exide battery plant shut down in 2015 after state regulators detected lead in the soil surrounding the facility, which had been operating for more than three decades on a temporary permit. Many residents in Boyle Heights and other communities on the Eastside are still waiting for cleanup crews to reach their homes, up to 10,000 of which were polluted with lead dust over the course of Exide’s operations.

Lead, a byproduct of battery recycling, is known to cause neurological problems and developmental delays in children.

Photo: the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon. By Art Torres.

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