Following recent news reports on the pesticide poisoning of a Delaware family vacationing on the island of St. John, Senate President Neville James has voiced his outrage over the blatant irresponsibility and reckless behavior of local pesticide company Terminix.
Steve Esmond, his wife Theresa Divine, and their two teenage sons have been hospitalized in critical condition since late March after being exposed to the chemical methyl bromide, found in a pesticide administered by Terminix, while staying at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort located in Cruz Bay.
James expressed deep sorrow for the Esmond family and said he is baffled that the incident occurred when there are several codified regulations to prevent disastrous events such as this from taking place.
“It is for this very reason that in the 26th Legislature, I proposed, and was successful in getting the body to support the Pesticide Control Act of 2006–a series of regulations that dealt with the registration, commercial use, purchase and custom application of all pesticides used in the Territory,” he said. “Working in conjunction with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, our premise then, as it is now, was to protect the health and safety of our territory’s residents, visitors, wildlife, and habitats.”
According to Act 6863, section 838, there are several ways in which Terminix and its Puerto Rico distributor broke the law, which includes the distribution of a banned product, and its unlawful use within the Virgin Islands.
“Terminix broke the law, plain and simple–local and federal laws. And in some cases of the federal law, its pesticide provider out of Puerto Rico may have broken interstate distribution statutes as well. Methyl bromide was banned from use within the U.S. over 30 years ago, and that fact makes their actions even more outrageous,” Senator James stated.
According to EPA, the use of methyl bromide is restricted due to its acute toxicity, and was banned from the U.S. in 1984. Health effects of acute exposure to this product are serious, and may include damage to the central nervous system or respiratory system.
“Today, DPNR along with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have taken custody of the quarantined methyl bromide canisters on all three islands and an investigation is ongoing. Also, a Stop-Use order has been issued to Terminix,” said James. “Moving forward, we need to make sure the laws we create are enforced so visitors like the Esmonds and our local citizens can enjoy a beautiful, safe and healthy Virgin Islands.” James concluded.