Delaware Family Poisoned by Pesticide Continue Recovery; Investigation Opened



Tradewinds reporter Tom Oat talks to Fox News via Skype about the Sirenusa incident which sickened a Delaware family in March.


As the family of four poisoned by the illegal use of a highly-toxic and regulated fumigating pesticide March 20 during their vacation on St. John continued a difficult recovery in Delaware, Federal and territorial environmental officials continued their investigation into the source of the extremely hazardous pesticide gas involved.

“Theresa Devine has been discharged and is doing well. Stephen Esmond is improving and stable,” family friend Attorney James J. Maron of Wilmington, Delaware. “The minor boys remain in critical condition.”

“They are confident in their medical professionals and are hopeful for a full recovery,” Atty. Maron said. “The family asks that their privacy be respected during this period of recuperation.”

“The family is grateful for the work of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and the local authorities for their investigation of this chemical exposure,” the family attorney added. “The family is confident that the responsible parties will be brought to justice and held accountable.”

“The Esmond family thanks everyone for their support and concern for their recovery from this unthinkable tragedy of pesticide poisoning during a family vacation in the United States Virgin Islands,” Atty. Maron said. “Many questions remain why an odorless pesticide of this level of toxicity could be manufactured, distributed and applied in a residential area resulting in this family’s injuries.”

Federal and V.I. Investigations
Investigators from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially launched a joint investigation into the Methyl Bromide release at the Sirenusa Residences overlooking Cruz Bay on March 23, according to a statement from DPNR Commissioner Designee Dawn L. Henry, Esq.

The joint investigation included air quality sampling for the presence of various compounds of interest, officials said.

A team of investigators and EPA Region II Director Judith Enck visited the site on St. John and subsequently met with Governor Ken Mapp to provide a status update and plan of action going forward.

DPNRs’ Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) immediately responded to the complaint and deployed staff to St. John to begin its investigation. Jeff Garrison, Environmental Protection Agency-Region II local representative, was in contact with DPNR Commissioner Designee Henry to launch a joint investigation.

Preliminary Investigations Finds Fault
“During the preliminary stages of the investigation, DPNR learned that the suspected Methyl Bromide release was connected to fumigation activities which Terminix International USVI, LLC, (Terminix) conducted in Unit J Lower at Sirenusa Residences on March 18, 2015,” DPNR
“On March 20, DPNR-DEP contacted Terminix to inquire about the fumigation activities on March 18, 2015, and confirmed that Terminix used Meth-O-Gas® Q to fumigate the kitchen area in Unit J Lower at Sirenusa Residences on March 18, 2015,” DPNR said in a press release.

In addition, DPNR inspected the Terminix offices on St. Thomas on March 23, 2015, and interviewed the employees of Terminex International USVI, LLC. DPNR confirmed that Terminix possessed Methyl Bromide and learned of other locations where Terminex used the banned Methyl Bromide products. Consequently, DPNR issued a Stop Use Order to Terminix in St. Thomas and on St. Croix.

Currently, DPNR and EPA are in custody of the quarantined Methyl Bromide canister on St. Thomas and are collaborating to secure the quarantined canisters on St. Croix.

Other Companies Have Chemical
During the weeks of March 23, 2015, and March 30, DPNR performed inspections at the other pest control companies throughout the Territory to determine whether those companies are using Methyl Bromide. As part of that inspection, DPNR conducted an inventory of the pesticide products in storage and requested that the companies provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) pertaining to all the pesticides used, stored or sold in the Territory containing Methyl Bromide.   

DPNR discovered two extermination companies on St. Croix were in possession of Methyl Bromide and one other company on St. Thomas, according to a DPNR statement.   DPNR will determine from the companies’ records whether they have used the banned substance and, if so, when and where, officials reported.

Furthermore, as part of the ongoing investigation, DPNR officials announced they also are working with other agencies, including but not limited to, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, the EPA and the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture to locate the distributor of Methyl Bromide to the Territory.

Commissioner Henry reminds the public that if there any questions or concerns regarding any pesticide use, please feel free to contact the Division of Environmental Protection’s Pesticide Program at (340) 774-3320 ext. 5193 on St. Thomas and (340) 773-1082 ext. 2272 on St. Croix.