State Sues Agway For Selling Illegal Pesticides

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin Crotty today filed a lawsuit against Agway, Inc., charging the company with repeatedly violating state law by selling illegal pesticides.

"The sale of illegal pesticides simply will not be tolerated in New York," Spitzer said. "While pesticides can be used legally, they are purposely designed to kill living things and can pose very serious health and environmental risks. For that reason, strict compliance with the law is essential. My office will continue to work with Commissioner Crotty and the DEC to prosecute those who seek to profit by violating the law."

DEC Commissioner Crotty said, "The State Department of Environmental Conservation closely regulates the sale and use of pesticides to ensure that public health and the environment are protected. We will continue to work closely with Attorney General Spitzer and his staff to ensure compliance with state environmental laws and regulations, which is critical for Long Island, where pesticides could potentially impact the sole source aquifer."

The lawsuit alleges that in May 2001, an Agway store in Westfield, Massachusetts sold an illegal pesticide to a vineyard in Suffolk County. The pesticide -- Manzate 200 – is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The incident is the latest in a series in which Agway stores are believed to have sold unregistered pesticides. Agway signed consent orders with the DEC in 1992 and 1996 in which it committed to comply with state law, but the company is believed to have violated the consent orders numerous times from stores in Riverhead, Bridgehampton and Mattituck in Suffolk County.

When the most recent violation was discovered, DEC referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office for enforcement action. The lawsuit was filed today in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The lawsuit seeks a financial penalty and a court order requiring that the company hire a full-time trained employee whose responsibility is to ensure that all pesticides sold or offered for sale by Agway in New York State are properly registered.

"It is vitally important that we protect the environment and public health from the dangers of illegal pesticide use," said Spitzer. "Today’s legal action will help ensure that Agway plays by the same rules that all companies are expected to comply with."

Assistant Attorneys General Lisa Feiner and Lemuel Srolovic are handling the case with Vincent A. Palmer, Pesticide Control Specialist III, for the DEC.