TERMINIX PAYS $80,000 SETTLEMENT FOR FUMIGATION SAFETY
(06/43) TRENTON -- Department of Environmental Protection
Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today announced an $80,000 settlement
with Terminix International stemming from a botched cocoa-bean fumigation
that exposed nine employees to the pesticide methyl bromide.
"We found it disturbing that Terminix put employees to work
with one of the world's most hazardous pesticides without appropriate
oversight or training," Commissioner Jackson said. "What
should have been a routine warehouse fumigation went badly awry,
and only by sheer luck did the employees survive."
Terminix dispatched nine employees on May 12 and 13, 2004, to fumigate
cocoa beans stored on pallets in a 500,000 cubic-foot area of the
Lyons & Sons Inc. warehouse in Pennsauken.
The Terminix crew covered rows of the 18-foot stacks of cocoa beans
with plastic tarps and sealed them. The crew's supervisor, who was
licensed to perform commercial fumigations, then wrongly inserted
a hose into the side of each covered stack and pumped in a total
1,037 pounds of "Meth-O-Gas 100," which contains the active
ingredient methyl bromide.
When done properly by following explicit directions on the methyl
bromide label, as required by law, the liquid pesticide is applied
either with a vaporizer or into evaporation pans positioned at the
top of the stack so it is evenly distributed as a gas. The tarps
should remain sealed for 12 to 24 hours to eradicate any infestations
of insects or other pests. The law also requires employees to wear
self-contained breathing apparatus during certain phases of the
application and to test the air before allowing employees to re-enter
the area to remove the tarps.
Instead, under their supervisor's direction, the untrained Terminix
crew - none of whom wore the required safety gear - began removing
tarps at least four hours too early and were immediately overcome
by the toxic fumes. The DEP's Pesticide Control investigators determined
that the fumigation, from start to finish, represented a gross misapplication
of methyl bromide, and all safety requirements for protective equipment
and air testing had been ignored.
Two of the employees suffered severe injuries. Three others also
required medical treatment following the mishap.
Methyl bromide can irritate and burn the eyes and skin on contact,
and exposure can permanently damage the nervous system. Overexposure
can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, tremors, slurred speech, dizziness
and convulsions. Very high levels can result in rapid loss of consciousness
Soon after the incident, the DEP's Compliance and Enforcement investigators
cited Terminix for a host of pesticide-control and air-pollution
violations. Further, the warehouse fumigation prompted the DEP to
conduct an overall assessment of the fumigation industry in New
Jersey. Also, as a result of the Terminix case, the DEP set a national
precedent by regulating the release of air toxics from transient
fumigation processes. Future fumigation licenses will include air-pollution-control
In addition to the $80,000 payment, the settlement agreement prohibits
Terminix International and any of its subsidiaries and franchises
from participating in New Jersey's commodities-fumigation industry
for at least a year. After the suspension has lapsed, Terminix can
request the DEP's permission to again perform these commercial fumigations
- provided the company hires a consultant to review its operations
and ensure its ability to comply with all regulatory requirements.