ST. CROIX, V.I. – Attorney General Claude Earl Walker announced on
Monday that the Virgin Islands Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit
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.
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
that does not absolve Terminix from its violation of Virgin Islands law,
according to AG Walker.
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
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.
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
Sirenusa incident prompted the DOJ and DPNR to launch an investigation, which
AG Walker said uncovered “extremely troubling” conduct by Terminix.
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.”
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.
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.”
Henry also used the opportunity to issue a warning to residents to refrain from
using restricted-use pesticides.
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.”
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
studies have revealed that methyl bromide has deleterious effects on people’s
health and is highly destructive to the ozone layer.