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  02/13/2017 DOJ Files Suit Against Terminix  
    
 

ST. CROIX, V.I. – Attorney General Claude Earl Walker announced on Monday that the Virgin Islands Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against Terminix.

            AG Walker made this announcement Monday morning at a joint press conference with Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Dawn Henry. The press conference was held at the Department of Justice Conference room at Castle Coakley, St. Croix.

            This enforcement action by DOJ against Terminix, which was filed with the V.I. Superior Court on St. Croix, is separate and apart from the federal charges that the pesticide company faced after a family of four vacationing at the Sirenusa Resort on St. John in March 2015 became seriously ill when the unit below them was fumigated. Investigations revealed that the pest control spray used contained the highly-toxic chemical, methyl bromide. Since 1984, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned the indoor use of methyl bromide products.  In a plea agreement with the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Terminix agreed to pay a $10 million settlement.

            However, that does not absolve Terminix from its violation of Virgin Islands law, according to AG Walker.

            “…Terminix has entered into an agreement with the federal government, which is before Judge Curtis Gomez,” AG Walker said in his opening remarks.  “The Government of the Virgin Islands’ complaint does not seek relief for violations of any federal law.  The complaint alleges a civil violation of the Virgin Islands Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (CICO) Act, a law that seeks to end sophisticated unlawful activity in the Virgin Islands. The complaint also alleges a violation of the Territory’s Pesticide Control Act. The complaint alleges that Terminix violated the Virgin Islands’ consumer protection laws.”

            AG Walker said the local government, in its action against Terminix, is seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties on behalf of and for the benefit of the Virgin Islands and the people of the Virgin Islands.

            “The Virgin Islands has an independent, sovereign interest and obligation to ensure that its laws are enforced and that is why we are taking action,” AG Walker said.

            The Sirenusa incident prompted the DOJ and DPNR to launch an investigation, which AG Walker said uncovered “extremely troubling” conduct by Terminix. 

AG Walker pointed out that for nearly a decade and on at least 70 occasions, the pesticide company has been engaged in a longstanding pattern and practice of illegally and unsafely using methyl bromide in residences across the Virgin Islands and deceiving Virgin Islands residents about those practices.

The suit also asserts that Terminix personnel in the Virgin Islands had no idea how and when to use the toxic chemical, which was labeled with a warning that the product is a “restricted-use pesticide” as well as a “commodity” or “quarantine” fumigant and is “for quarantine/regulatory use only.”

The DOJ’s lawsuit also alleges that the parent companies are complicit in these illegal practices, in that they knew and approved the use of methyl bromide to fumigate residences in the Virgin Islands, AG Walker said.   

The DOJ’s 34-page complaint also accuses senior safety managers at Terminix’s parent company for knowing for years that the Terminix employee who fumigated at Sirenusa lacked proper training and basic safety equipment to fumigate those units using methyl bromide, AG Walker said.

            In her remarks, Commissioner Henry agreed that Terminix should be held accountable for violating any territorial law and the pesticide code.

“We launched an investigation and DPNR found out that Terminix had one canister of methyl bromide on St. Thomas and two canisters on St. Croix,” Commissioner Henry said.  “DPNR immediately issued a stop use order to Terminix that required for them to quarantine the methyl bromide.  DPNR later seized that methyl bromide and shipped all the containers off-island for proper disposal.”

Commissioner Henry also used the opportunity to issue a warning to residents to refrain from using restricted-use pesticides.

“We’re getting information into DPNR that certain individuals are ordering restricted-use pesticides from the Internet…” Commissioner Henry said. “Folk are able to get these pesticides into the Territory and… trying to apply these restricted-use pesticides on your own, you are not only putting the community at danger, but you are also putting your personal family, individuals in your homes at severe risk.  These pesticides are to be applied only by applicators who have the necessary training and equipment to protect… the applicator and the individuals staying in the home.”

Commissioner Henry concluded by stating that her department will continue to work with the AG’s office “to ensure the health and safety of our residents and our environment.”

Scientific studies have revealed that methyl bromide has deleterious effects on people’s health and is highly destructive to the ozone layer.

 
  DOJ files suit against Terminix.pdf