Terminix To Pay $759,000 For Environmental Violations

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin Crotty today announced that a state court judge approved an agreement with Terminix International Co., L.P. to settle claims that the company violated state environmental and consumer protection laws.

Terminix is the nation's largest pesticide applicator.

A state investigation last year of Terminix's implementation of its "Sentricon System," a termite control product, found that many Terminix customers did not receive all of the product monitoring required in customer contracts. An investigation several years ago found that Terminix employees improperly applied other types of pesticides and falsified records to cover up their actions.

"Pesticides -- which are often very toxic -- must be applied in the most effective and least harmful way," said Attorney General Spitzer. "This protects public health, the environment and consumers. Companies that fail to adhere to the law cheat their customers and create potential health and environmental hazards. My office will continue working with the Department of Environmental Conservation to prosecute such violations."

DEC Commissioner Crotty said: "Improperly handling pesticides, or any toxic material, can have long-term negative impacts on the environment and public health. It is critical that consumers receive accurate information and that companies respect the laws to ensure that pesticides are used properly and in the safest possible manner. DEC will continue to work with the Attorney General's office and our other partners at all levels of government to protect New York's citizens and natural resources."

Customers using the Sentricon System, a product Dow AgroSciences licenses to pesticide applicators such as Terminix, typically enter into contracts of one year or more with the licensed applicator. This "integrated management system" requires monitoring for the presence of termites at bait stations surrounding the home, insertion of the pesticide in tubes only at stations in which termite activity has been found during monitoring, and further inspection, monitoring, and management of the bait stations during the life of the contract.

An analysis last year of files from the company's records of consumers of Terminix's termite control services, which utilized Dow AgroSciences LLC Sentricon Colony Elimination System, revealed that a majority of customers serviced by the company's offices in Albany, White Plains, and Mineola did not receive all of the services they paid for.

Terminix's failure to follow the requirements of the Sentricon System label is a violation of state environmental laws governing the use of pesticides, as well as consumer protection laws that prohibit deceptive acts and practices in the conduct of any business. Terminix also failed to follow label directions of the pesticide know as "Recruit," containing the active ingredient hexaflumuron, which is a component of the Sentricon System.

The investigation last year followed a 1999 investigation by the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Environmental Conservation that found Terminix did not follow label instructions when applying liquid pesticides, and that employees falsified records to cover it up. In December 2000 and April 2001, two employees from Terminix's Mineola office pled guilty to crimes of falsification of business records and participation in a scheme to defraud.

Under the settlement terms, Terminix will pay $759,000 to resolve all the state's civil claims arising from these investigations. Terminix will also dismiss its appeal of two unsuccessful lawsuits it brought against the state to stop the state's investigation.

Today's settlement resolves only the most recent of many enforcement actions against Terminix. In 1992, Terminix paid the state $50,000 to resolve allegations concerning application of pesticides by a non-certified applicator, failing to warn homeowners of possible pesticide dangers, and failing to maintain proper records and to register several business offices. Terminix has also entered into settlements with the states of Connecticut, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Florida for other pesticide application violations (see attachment for summary of these enforcement actions).

The case was handled in the Attorney General's office by Assistant Attorneys General Philip Bein, Maureen Leary, Lemuel M. Srolovic and Robert Vawter and Environmental Science Aide Christine Primi and in DEC by Nat Barber of the Environmental Enforcement Division, Regional Attorney Karen Murphy, Bureau of Environmental Conservation Investigations Investigator Richard Maggio and Regional Pesticide Control Specialist Vincent Palmer.

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