San Juan, P.R. – Oct. 8, 2008 : The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cited the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture’s (PRDA) Crop Protection Program for allegedly violating federal pesticide and worker protection regulations. The EPA complaint, issued under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), comes after a series of investigations conducted by EPA revealed that PRDA was using pesticides in ways that were inconsistent with their labeling. These practices included failing to mix pesticides properly with the soil, using them inappropriately, putting workers and pesticide handlers in potential danger, and applying pesticides on crops for which they were not approved for use. In addition, PRDA failed to provide proper pesticide application information to farm owners. EPA’s complaint against the PRDA proposes a penalty of $263,980.
“Whether they are government agencies or private companies, EPA will pursue parties that violate the law and fail to protect farm workers and pesticide handlers,” said Alan J. Steinberg, Regional Administrator. “EPA is making sure that those parties who deal with pesticides do so safely and by the rules in place to protect workers, pesticide handlers and the environment.”
PRDA applies pesticides at farms located throughout Puerto Rico. On March 13, 2007 and March 14, 2007, EPA conducted inspections of PRDA’s central and regional field offices to evaluate whether or not the department was in compliance with FIFRA and worker protection standards, and to evaluate how pesticides, particularly restricted-use pesticides, are being applied. EPA found that PRDA was in violation of FIFRA and worker protection standards. Subsequent investigations were carried out in August 2007 and April 2008, and both inspections maintained that PRDA continued to be out of compliance with the requirements of FIFRA and the worker protection standards spelled out under it.
Worker protection provisions of the federal pesticide law are designed to reduce the risk of illness or injury resulting from agricultural field workers’ occupational exposure to pesticides. They govern pesticide use and require that workers and pesticide handlers be given appropriate training, equipment and information. Workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticides applications; handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation and inadequate protective equipment.