Terminix Fined For Using Banned Pesticide That Sickened Family On Vacation In Virgin Islands

Pest control company Terminix will pay $10 million for illegally using a pesticide containing a noxious chemical. The company is being held responsible for sickening a family of four that were vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Terminix companies knowingly failed to properly manage their pest control operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, allowing pesticides containing methyl bromide to be applied illegally and exposing a family of four to profoundly debilitating injuries,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said in a statement Tuesday.

As reported By CNN, Terminix will pay $8 million in criminal fines, $1 million in restitution, and $1 million to fund a community service project once the plea agreement is approved by a district court judge. In addition, the company is expected to pay medical expenses for the family.

According to Cruden, the pest control company will be placed on a three-year probation period. They will be obligated to regularly report to the EPA and show that preventative procedures have been put in place to ensure this does not happen in the future.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, two Delaware teens and their parents became severely ill while staying at the Sirenusa resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Authorities determined employees of Terminix sprayed methyl bromide to fumigate the unit directly underneath the family’s condo.

“Via various means,” the Justice Department said Tuesday, “methyl bromide from the lower unit migrated to the upper unit of Building J, causing serious injury to and hospitalization of the entire family.”

Steve Esmond, along with his wife Theresa Devine and their two sons, rented the condo during a visit to the Virgin Islands last March. However, they were not there very long before becoming extremely sick and experiencing seizures. The whole family had to be transported back to the States for emergency medical treatment.

The bodies of the two teens were so damaged by the chemical that they could barely move even months after the exposure occurred. The father continued to suffer from severe tremors and had difficulty speaking. The mother, who had the least exposure to the toxic gas, had some health problems, but not nearly as severe as the rest of her family.

The attorney for the family has not released any new updates on the family’s current health conditions.

According to court documents, Terminix used the pesticide at the resort in St. John, at another resort in St. Thomas, and at 12 residences in St. Croix between September 2012 and February 2015. After local authorities determined the pesticide caused the family to become ill, Terminix stopped fumigation services in the U.S. Virgin Islands and interviewed employees about the products they were using as well as how they were applied.

“This settlement sends a clear message that the Virgin Islands will not tolerate such blatant disregard of our laws and will utilize the best avenue in seeking justice,” Governor Kenneth E. Mapp said in a statement.

Once federal authorities opened an investigation, Terminix stopped using methyl bromide in the U.S. and its territories. The only exception is the company’s use of the chemical for a supervised government project in Baltimore, Maryland.

The U.S. Environmental Administration considers methyl bromide, an odorless gas, extremely toxic and banned its use for indoor fumigation in 1984. Exposure to the chemical causes serious health complications, including significant harm to the central nervous and respiratory systems.

“When you break a law that protects public health, there are real victims and real consequences, as this case tragically shows,” EPA administrator Cynthia Giles said.

Despite the Terminix fine and the company’s commitment to discontinue the use of methyl bromide, the Justice Department plans to keep the investigation open. The pest control provider has not officially commented on the agreement.

[Photo by Matt King/Getty Images]

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