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Terminix to Pay $10 Million for Using Banned Pesticide That Sickened Family on Virgin Islands Vacation

A family of four was severely sickened following a Terminix fumigation at a U.S. Virgin Islands resort last year, federal authorities said.
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A year after a family of four was seriously sickened following a fumigation at a U.S. Virgin Islands resort, Terminix agreed Tuesday to pay $10 million in fines and restitution for using a pesticide that's been banned for more than 30 years, federal authorities said.

Stephen Esmond, Theresa Devine and their two teenage sons were exposed to methyl bromide in March 2015 when a local Terminix office fumigated the unit below theirs while they were on vacation on the Virgin Islands resort of St. John. The Environmental Protection Agency banned methyl bromide — a highly poisonous, odorless gas — for residential use in 1984.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in St. Thomas, Terminix "knowingly" applied fumigants including methyl bromide at the Sirenusa resort in St. John in October 2014 and in March 2015, when the Esmond family was visiting.

The gas made its way to the Esmonds' unit, seriously injuring all four members of the Delaware family, the documents say.

Terminix was also charged with using the banned pesticide in 12 residential units in St. Croix and another in St. Thomas from September 2012 to February 2015.

Terminix and its local subsidiary pleaded guilty to four counts of violating the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and agreed to pay $8 million in fines, $1 million in restitution to the EPA for clean-up costs and $1 million to fund community service projects in the Virgin Islands, according to the plea agreement, which must still be approved by a federal judge.

"When you break a law that protects public health, there are real victims and real consequences, as this case tragically shows," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement Tuesday.

A representative of the Esmond family said neither the family nor their attorney would have any comment.