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EPA Removing 1,540 Gallons of Pesticides from Dept. of Agriculture Facility in Kingshill

Release Date: 01/12/2000
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(#00012) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of removing 28 drums of the pesticide Malathion from an active U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDOA) facility located off of Route 70 in Estate Lower Cove, Kingshill, St. Croix. The 28 55-gallon drums holding approximately 1,540 gallons of the pesticide are in poor condition, and some Malathion has leaked out onto the ground. EPA is concerned that rain might wash the pesticide into the groundwater beneath the site, and that, in the event of a fire or vandalism, the health of residents and workers nearby might be threatened. The cleanup, which is being done under EPA's Superfund program, began on January 6 and is likely to continue for several months.

The 28 drums of liquid Malathion had been intended for use in mosquito control by the Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH), which had improperly stored the pesticide along with drums of other hazardous chemicals at its Charles Harwood Complex. In 1995, after the other hazardous chemicals were removed from the Harwood facility under EPA oversight, VIDOH moved the leftover Malathion to the VIDOA facility so that it could be used for agricultural purposes. The drums were kept outside at the DOA facility, and ultimately deteriorated from exposure to the elements. In November 1999, VIDOH asked EPA to help remove the drums and agreed to reimburse EPA for its work. The estimated cost of the cleanup is approximately $150,000.

"Thanks to the hard work and quick response of EPA's Superfund staff, we are eliminating any threat to the Kingshill community and environment of pesticide contamination from this facility," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "The government of the Virgin Islands asked for our assistance in removing the chemicals, and we anticipate a smooth and uneventful operation. Our experienced team of emergency responders is the best resource communities have to address these kinds of immediate threats to human health and the environment."

Malathion is a commonly-used pesticide effective in controlling mosquitoes, fruit flies, household insects and lice. For most uses including mosquito control Malathion must be diluted to very low concentrations that are of minimal risk to humans but effective against the insects they are intended to kill. However, exposure to very high doses and high concentrations of Malathion can cause adverse health effects in people including numbness, headaches, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, blurred vision and difficulty breathing. Of additional concern to EPA is the fact that Malathion is toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates and amphibians. Given that sensitive aquatic ecosystems abound on the U.S. Virgin Islands, EPA considers the safe cleanup of the drums of Malathion most pressing.

The remediation of the VIDOA site is being conducted by EPA's Emergency and Remedial Response Division, which carries out cleanup operations at hazardous waste sites, responds to chemical and oil spills, and removes abandoned chemicals from communities before the materials cause direct harm to the public or further contaminate soil or drinking water. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund law, gave EPA the authority to conduct both long-term, sometimes complex remediations of contaminated areas that pose chronic threats to the environment and/or human health, and short-term removals like the one at the VIDOA site, which require immediate responses because they pose more acute threats.