SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The U.S. government announced Thursday that it imposed a $210,000 fine on two pesticide distributors in Puerto Rico as part of a widespread probe into a toxic pesticide that nearly killed an American family in the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.
The distributors, identified as Superior-Angran LLC and Superior Angran Caribbean Inc., also were ordered to train pesticide applicators as part of a deal that settles alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.
The EPA said Superior-Angran bought two pesticides containing methyl bromide and then sold them to applicators in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands without certifying they would be used only in quarantine and pre-shipment applications as required by law.
The EPA said it found that Puerto Rico-based applicators then illegally used the pesticide, adding they would not have been able to buy it had Superior-Angran required a certification.
"Companies selling pesticides must follow all laws to help protect people from becoming seriously injured," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck.
Ada Torres, a Superior-Angran spokeswoman, said by phone that the clerical errors were an unintentional mistake and that the companies have been unfairly tied to the U.S. Virgin Islands incident when they played no role in it.
Torres also said Superior-Angran is considering taking legal action against the EPA, which launched a widespread federal investigation into the use of methyl bromide in the region after a Delaware family vacationing on St. John was poisoned in March 2015.
Authorities determined Terminix used methyl bromide at a vacation unit below the one the family had rented. Two teenagers were hospitalized in critical condition and have permanent neurological damage while their parents had to undergo therapy.
Methyl bromide is still used in the U.S. mainland for agricultural purposes, but the EPA banned the chemical for residential use in 1984 and is phasing out its overall use.
Exposure to high levels of methyl bromide can cause headaches, dizziness, fainting and even paralysis and death.