By Ray Downs
Sept. 17 (UPI) — A former Terminix employee in the U.S. Virgin Islands pleaded guilty to illegally using pesticides at multiple residences, including one where a family of four became gravely ill in 2015, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Jose Rivera, 58, was the manager of a Terminix branch in the U.S. Virgin Islands when he violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act by illegally applying fumigants containing methyl bromide. The chemical can cause various respiratory and nervous system problems and has been banned for indoor use by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1984.
“Based on his training, the defendant knew that he was required to read the pesticide label and follow all instructions when using any pesticide,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “In short, the defendant was instructed that federal law requires applicators to follow the pesticide use instructions on the label. The label on methyl bromide states that its use is restricted to the location and manner on the label, and the label does not authorize application of methyl bromide in a residential unit. Rivera applied methyl bromide, a registered restricted-use pesticide, in a manner inconsistent with the use instructions on the label at the residences named in the counts of conviction.”
Rivera’s use of methyl bromide indoors is believed to have caused the severe illnesses of a family of four who were staying at a resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands in March 2015. Two children in the family were put under medical-induced comas for several weeks and sustained permanent neurological damage, but everyone survived the poisoning.
In March 2016, Terminix agreed to pay a $10 million fine to the Justice Department.
The company also later settled a civil lawsuit with the family that was poisoned and agreed to pay $87 million.