Two extermination companies on St. Croix and one more on St. Thomas have stocks of pesticide containing methyl bromide, the Planning and Natural Resources Department indicated in a press release issued Tuesday evening.
Planning will determine from the companies’ records whether they have used the banned substance and, if so, when and where.
Planning has already identified Terminix as the St. Thomas-based company that fumigated a unit at Sirenusa condominium complex on St. John using Meth-O-Gas. It said Tuesday that the company fumigated the kitchen of a lower Sirenusa unit on March 18. Two days later, four members of a Delaware family suffered apparent chemical poisoning after staying in another Sirenusa unit.
After treatment at Roy L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas, they were airlifted to mainland hospitals.
“This unfortunate incident poses a threat to the residents and visitors to the territory. It will not be treated lightly and the department will take appropriate enforcement action,” acting Planning Commissioner Dawn L. Henry said.
She said Terminix will be held fully accountable for its actions in exposing the community to substances that it knows or should have known were banned from use in the territory.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with the Esmond family and we pray for their full recovery,” Henry said, referring to the Delaware family sickened at Sirenusa.
Reached late Tuesday, Planning spokesman Jamal Nielsen said he had no information on the two St. Croix companies and one St. Thomas company mentioned in the press release but not yet identified.
According to the press release, during the weeks of March 23 and March 30, Planning inspected pest control companies throughout the territory to determine whether those companies are using methyl bromide. As part of that inspection, Planning conducted an inventory of the pesticide products in storage and requested that the companies provide Material Safety Data Sheets pertaining to all the pesticides used, stored or sold in the territory containing methyl bromide.
Currently, Planning and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are in custody of the quarantined methyl bromide canister on St. Thomas and are collaborating to secure the quarantined canisters on St. Croix, the press release indicates.
As part of the ongoing investigation, Planning is also working with other agencies, including the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, EPA and the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture to locate the distributor of methyl bromide to the territory. Planning said on March 25 the pesticide containing methyl bromide used in the Sirenusa incident came from Puerto Rico.
Additionally, Planning said on March 26 that Terminix used pesticide containing methyl bromide at another Sirenusa location in October 2014 and at three locations on St. Croix in 2014.
Planning said it inspected the Terminix offices on St. Thomas on March 23 and interviewed Terminix employees. After confirming that Terminix possessed methyl bromide and learning of other locations where Terminix used the banned methyl bromide products, Planning issued a "Stop Use Order" to Terminix in St. Thomas and on St. Croix.
Both orders required that Terminix immediately stop using pesticides containing methyl bromide in the territory, provide Planning with all documentation relating to the purchase, use, and application of pesticide products containing methyl bromide over the last 12 months, quarantine the subject pesticides, and refrain from moving, destroying, altering or affecting the subject pesticides.
On March 23, Planning and EPA launched a joint investigation into the methyl bromide release at Sirenusa. This investigation included air quality sampling for the presence of various compounds of interest.
The press release indicates that EPA Region II Director Judith Enck visited Sirenusa and subsequently met with Gov. Kenneth Mapp to provide a status update and plan of action.
Planning said anyone with questions or concerns regarding any pesticide use can contact the department’s Division of Environmental Protection’s Pesticide Program at 1-340-774-3320, extension 5193, on St. Thomas and 1-340-773-1082, extension 2272, on St. Croix.
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