The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday filed a complaint alleging that Syngenta Kauai violated “numerous federal pesticide regulations” meant to protect agricultural workers at its crop research farm in Kekaha.
The federal agency is seeking civil penalties of more than $4.8 million for the violations.
Syngenta says it has been working with the EPA “for a number of months” to resolve allegations related to a “worker re-entry incident” that occurred at a Syngenta farm on Kauai in January.
According to the EPA, workers entered a Syngenta field shortly after it was sprayed with a restricted use organophosphate insecticide.
“Ten of these workers were taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment,” the EPA said in its press release. “Restricted use pesticides are not available to the general public because of their high toxicity, potential for harm and impact on the environment.”
Said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest: “Reducing pesticide exposure is a high priority, as it directly affects the health of farmworkers.”
In its own press release issued Thursday, Syngenta said it has “taken responsibility in this matter” and that no workers were injured in the incident.
The company argued that the EPA is “not characterizing the matter accurately” and is “overreaching its authority with this enforcement, lacking precedent and disregarding its own policies and regulations.”
The company added:
Further, Syngenta believes EPA’s position will have a negative impact on the way others respond to such matters and actually reduce, not increase worker safety outcomes. Syngenta is disappointed with the decision to file a complaint and will present its case through the normal administrative process.
Last month, the agency announced it was investigating Monsanto, Terminix and Wonder Farm for allegedly violating pesticide laws in Hawaii.
The EPA’s complaint also comes one day after the state departments of Agriculture and Health announced new initiatives to address concerns about commercial pesticide use statewide.
The action was welcomed by the seed crop industry that Syngenta and Monsanto are a part of, but panned by safe food advocates as inadequate.