US agency, Kauai seed company settle on pesticide violations

LIHUE, Hawaii — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has settled with Syngenta Seeds LLC to resolve federal pesticide violations at the company's farm on Kauai.

Under the agreement reached Monday, Syngenta will pay a civil penalty of $150,000. The company also will spend $400,000 on 11 worker protection training sessions for agricultural workers in Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The EPA said Syngenta failed to notify workers in January 2016 and January 2017 to avoid fields in Kekaha that had been recently sprayed with an insecticide containing chlorpyrifos.

The agency also claimed the company failed to "provide both adequate decontamination supplies on-site and prompt transportation to a medical facility for exposed workers."

The EPA says chlorpyrifos can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at very high exposures, respiratory paralysis and death.

In January 2016, 19 workers entered a cornfield about 20 hours after the field was sprayed with chlorpyrifos. The wait period to re-enter is 24 hours. Syngenta said a supervisor had workers immediately leave the field after he realized the error. Ten workers were taken to Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital to be examined.

Syngenta spokesman Paul Minehart said "agricultural worker safety is a top priority for Syngenta and safe use training has for many years been an integral part of the way the company does business worldwide."

Alexis Strauss, the EPA's acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said the settlement will bring growers much-needed training to protect agricultural workers.

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