Terminix, the company named in the apparent chemical poisoning of a vacationing Delaware family at Sirenusa condominiums on St. John, also used a pesticide containing methyl bromide on three occasions on St. Croix, a Stop Use order issued Thursday by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources indicates.
A Stop Use order issued Tuesday indicates that Terminix used the pesticide in October 2014 as well as on March 18 at Sirenusa.
Two days after the March 18 fumigation at Sirenusa in an attempt to get rid of powder post beetles, members of a family vacationing at the condominium complex suffered seizures and were flown to stateside hospitals.
Efforts to learn more about their current conditions have been unsuccessful.
DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen said that so far the investigation into the pesticide’s use hasn’t turned up anyone who got sick on St. Croix.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in one of its releases that health effects of acute exposure to methyl bromide are serious and include central nervous system and respiratory system damage.
According Thursday’s Stop Use order, Terminix fumigated a 20-foot container containing dry lumber at an unspecified location on St. Croix on July 15, 2014. On Nov. 26, 2014, the company fumigated a residence located at 143 Shoys, and on Dec. 19, 2014, kitchen cabinets at the Armery Building, also on St. Croix.
The Stop Use order indicates that, in addition to using a pesticide not approved for use in a residential structure, the company did not apply the pesticide in accordance with instructions on the label.
Among its many caveats, the 15-page label providing instructions for use of methyl bromide calls for sealing the building. The label was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and deals with getting rid of agricultural pests, which is an allowed use.
Nielsen said the department is now inspecting all companies across the territory that offer pest eradication services to make sure they’re not using banned pesticides.
Both Stop Use orders indicate that DPNR could impose a penalty of up to $5,000 for the first violation.
The Stop Use order issued Tuesday in relationship to the Sirenusa situation identifies the pesticide as Meth-O-Gas. It said that Terminix used a pesticide not approved for use in residences, used it in a manner that was inconsistent with directions on the label, did not store it according the label’s directions, and provided a registration number that was different than the pesticide containing methyl bromide the inspectors observed.
The Stop Use order gave Terminix until the end of the day to provide documentation concerning the purchase during the last year of any methyl bromide-containing pesticides anywhere in the Virgin Islands. Nielsen said previously that Terminix bought the pesticide in Puerto Rico.
According to the Stop Use order, Terminix must quarantine the pesticides with methyl bromide in secure locations.
Pesticides containing methyl bromide were phased out for residential use about 10 years ago because they impacted the earth’s ozone layer. However, if it or an approved replacement chemical such as Vikane is used, the area must be tented. Nielsen said previously that tents were not in place in the March 20 Sirenusa incident.
EPA spokesman Elias Rodriquez said Thursday that air monitoring and environmental sampling continues at Sirenusa.
“The purpose of the sampling is to inform our decision,” Rodriquez said, adding that he expects the first results to be back next week.
Rodriquez said the EPA first learned that a pesticide containing methyl bromide was used in the Sirenusa situation from local authorities.
“Terminix told us,” Nielsen added.
Rodriquez said he could neither confirm nor deny that EPA’s criminal investigation unit was involved in the investigation.
On Thursday, EPA issued a “warning advisory” about the use of pesticides and said pesticides must be used in accordance with label directions.
To view the EPA’s Pesticides Use Warning, visit www.epa.gov/region2/epa-pesticidewarning.pdf. That warning leads to a list of restricted use items that include several Meth-O-Gas products including one with the same registration number as the one listed in the Stop Use order concerning Sirenusa.
For more information about pesticides, their health effects and how they should be used and disposed of, call the National Pesticide Information Center at 800-858-7378 or visit www2.epa.gov/safepestcontrol.