Westside company Syngenta Seeds has agreed to pay a fine after workers were improperly exposed to pesticides.
According to Hawai‘i Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson Dean Higuchi, the $17,550 fine was levied, as part of a settlement, for worker protection violations and improper notification when spraying the pesticide Liberty.
“The violations occurred when Personal Protection Equipment — let’s say a coverall exposed to pesticide — was found near where workers were changing into street clothes,” Higuchi said.
Hawai‘i outreach manager for Syngenta, Laurie Goodwin, was not authorized to comment on the settlement, but did forward a prepared statement from Syngenta: “Syngenta Seeds Inc. is committed to quality control in all aspects of our business and we take the EPA’s findings very seriously. The incident involving our Hawai‘i facility occurred more than two and a half years ago, and the matters cited were quickly remedied. We made certain changes to our processes to ensure that we remain in compliance.”
When asked what the nature of the violation was with the spraying of the pesticide Liberty, Goodwin said she would have to go through Mainland corporate offices which were already closed for the day.
The EPA’s Higuchi said the Liberty violation may have been as simple as a “failure to notify workers at a morning meeting to avoid a certain field.”
The official EPA press release states the settlement fine was, in part, for “failing to post the spraying of the pesticide Liberty at its Central Notification Site.”
“It is proper notification to let those not involved know what they need to know,” Higuchi said.
According to the label for Liberty it is 18.19 percent Glufosinate-ammonium. The labeling states: “May be fatal if absorbed through skin. Causes moderate eye irritation. Harmful if swallowed. Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on clothing.”
Higuchi said the investigation related to this settlement had nothing to do with the incidents that have been occurring at Waimea Canyon Middle School. “With the information we have these incidents are in no way related to what has been occurring at Waimea Canyon Middle School.”
The school has experienced at least three incidents over the last two years that sickened students, staff and teachers after a nearby field was sprayed with pesticide. The company that responded in those incidents was Syngenta Seed. Officials claim cleome gynandra, or wild spider flower, was causing those illnesses, not pesticides.
Syngenta has since begun to work with the school to reach a solution.
The EPA Kekaha settlement announced yesterday was one element of a larger settlement out of Atlanta.
There were three separate administrative complaints totaling $284,050 in civil penalties with Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., and Syngenta Seeds, Inc., for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
EPA Region 4 in Atlanta consolidated the violations throughout the United States to emphasize the need for quality control in all aspects of pesticide production and distribution, states the EPA release.
The other settlements included written advertisements for restricted use pesticides, with a fine of $70,200, and a penalty of $196,300 for alleged violations involving two products.
Higuchi said Syngenta, in the Kekaha instance, realized its mistakes and worked with the EPA to come to a settlement in the worker protection violations.
“If someone suspects they are not being provided proper protection they can contact the EPA or the state Department of Agriculture,” Higuchi said. “Our rules are pretty straightforward as far as worker protection goes.”