Monsanto Co. will plead guilty to illegally storing and using a banned pesticide in Maui County and must pay $10 million as part of a plea agreement filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hawaii.
The recent development caps one part of a multi-faceted inquiry launched by the Environmental Protection Agency for alleged pesticide misuse by several companies, including Monsanto.
The court also assessed administrative fines of $200,000 and a special assessment of $125. Monsanto will pay a $6 million criminal fee and $4 million to various government entities including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Health, its Environmental Management Division and the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, which will all receive $800,000 each.
The fines must be payed within 14 days. The company also must develop an environmental compliance program and agree to environmental audits every six months at their Hawaii locations. Monsanto must also submit to site visits from a probation officer.
“To protect human health and the environment, pesticides must be properly applied and stored,” Jay Green, a special agent in the EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Hawaii, said in a press release. “EPA will continue to work in close partnership with our state and local counterparts to bring cases against those who knowingly threaten the health and safety of Hawaiian communities.”
Charges in this case include one count each of storing the banned pesticide, Penncap-M, at locations on Maui and Molokai and using it in Valley Farm on Maui. The EPA banned the pesticide in 2013. The counts for illegal storage are felonies.
The EPA wanted companies to dispose of the banned pesticide by December of that year, but Monsanto’s facility on Molokai continued storing it until September 2014. In July 2014, Monsanto sprayed the banned pesticide over two acres of Maui farm land and ordered workers to enter the fields just seven days after although federal rules set a 31-day wait time, according to court documents.
Monsanto eventually disposed of 2,250 pounds of hazardous waste, which includes the banned pesticide.
Earlier this year Monsanto had to pay out $80 million after a federal jury found that the company’s weed killer Roundup caused a man’s cancer. At least two Honolulu attorneys may file additional suits based on the same claims.
Monsanto is now a subsidiary of Bayer and Darren Wallis, Bayer’s vice president of communications in North America, said in a written statement that the company has improved its internal processes since the incident in 2014.
“We did not live up to our own standards or the law,” he said. “We have acknowledged this as part of our agreements with the Department of Justice, which are pending in federal District Court. We accept responsibility and are deeply sorry.”
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell