Commissioner Designee Dawn L. Henry, Esq. of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) confirms that on March 20, 2015, the department received a call from the Virgin Islands Department of Health of a possible Methyl Bromide release at Sirenusa Residences on St. John, which caused a family vacationing in one of the units to be transported to the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas.
DPNRs’ Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) immediately responded to the complaint and deployed staff to St. John to begin its investigation. Consecutively, Jeff Garrison, Environmental Protection Agency-Region II, local representative was in contact with DPNR Commissioner Designee Henry, to launch a joint investigation. 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. On March 20, 2015, 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.
On March 23, 2015, DPNR and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) launched a joint investigation into the Methyl Bromide release at Sirenusa Residences. This investigation included air quality sampling for the presence of various compounds of interest. A team of investigators and the 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.
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. Both Orders required that Terminix;
1) immediately stop using pesticides containing Methyl Bromide in the Territory
2) provide DPNR with all documentation relating to the purchase, use, and application of pesticide products containing Methyl Bromide over the last twelve months
3) to quarantine the subject pesticides, and
4) to refrain from moving, destroying, altering or affecting the subject pesticides.
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.
During the weeks of March 23, 2015, and March 30, 2015, 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 that two extermination companies on St. Croix were in possession of Methyl Bromide and one other company on St. Thomas. DPNR will determine from the companies’ records whether they have used the banned substance and, if so, when and where.
Furthermore, as part of the ongoing investigation, DPNR is also working with other agencies, including but not limited to, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, USEPA 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.
“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. Terminex International USVI, LLC 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,” Commissioner Henry stated.