The pest control company Terminix will pay more than $9 million in criminal fines tied to their use of a banned pesticide that sickened a Delaware family who was on vacation in the US Virgin Islands in 2015. The US Department of Justice says Terminix was sentenced earlier this week after admitting to using a pesticide called methyl bromide at 14 locations, including the St. John resort where the Esmond family was vacationing. Terminix will pay $8 million in fines and $1 million in restitution to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The company will also perform community service.
The EPA Found Traces of the Illegal Substance
The incident occurred in 2015 while the family was on vacation at the Sirenusa resort on St. John when two employees of the local Terminix fumigated the villa below theirs on March 18 with methyl bromide, which is not approved for residential use. After the family became ill, the Environmental Protection Agency found traces of the lethal gas in their villa. The exposure was so significant inside the treated unit that 6 weeks after the family fell ill, dangerous amounts of methyl bromide were still being detected inside the rental villa, according to EPA documents.
Negligence Leads to an Unsafe Environment
On the day in question, an exterminator tented and taped off the treated area of the resort villa with 6-millimeter plastic that the gas should not have been able to penetrate. However, sources familiar with the investigation speculated that the plastic could have come loose and the chemical may have traveled through the air-conditioning system into the Esmond’s villa. According to documents received from the EPA in a FOIA request, the EPA also speculated about a gap in the ceiling of the lower unit’s air conditioning unit, speculating that the gas may have traveled to the upper unit. Ordinarily, an odor is supposed to be added to methyl bromide before any use, much like the artificial odor added to natural gas so that people can detect it. But the Esmond’s family attorney said no odor was added in in this case. Regardless of whether the odor was added, methyl bromide should not have been used on residential units in the first place, as the chemical is legal only for use in agriculture.
This incident also raises fresh questions about the state of government accountability in the US Virgin Islands, in which the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), the islands’ environmental agency has faced accusations of lax oversight. In May of 2014, the EPA designated the agency as “high risk,” saying that the agency does not meet management standards. However, the director of the agency has stated that the misuse of methyl bromide had nothing to do with governmental failures, but was instead the result of bad decisions on the part of the pest control company.
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of negligence, you may be able to recover for your injuries. Contact the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: DeKalb County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County.