Largest Worker Protection Standard Penalty in EPA History Proposed for Case Involving Over 200 Pesticide Safety Violations

June 06, 2003
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued administrative complaints against five Colorado growers June 3, 2003 for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Acts (FIFRA) Worker Protection Standard (WPS), a regulation aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.
The Colorado growers include David Petrocco Farms, Inc., Brighton, Colo., Bauserman Farms, Inc., Manzanola, Colo., Dionisio Farms, Pueblo, Colo., Villano Brothers, Inc., Ft. Lupton, and MJ Farms, Inc., Commerce City, Colo. In the case of David Petrocco Farms, Inc., EPA is proposing a civil penalty of $231,990 for 229 violations of the WPS and FIFRA. This is the largest proposed federal WPS misuse penalty in EPA history.

"Environmental justice is one of the highest priorities for EPA's enforcement program, and this Agency will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure agricultural workers and pesticide handlers are protected from harmful exposure to pesticides," said John Peter Suarez, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The federal government will not tolerate growers who place their workers in harm's way because they fail to comply with the law."

David Petrocco Farms employs about 250 mostly seasonal workers and averages $12 million in annual sales. In 2001, David Petrocco Farms received a written warning notice from EPA documenting WPS violations that included not centrally displaying pesticide safety, emergency, and application information for its workers. In a follow-up inspection conducted in 2002, EPA inspectors found that the company still failed to post pesticide-specific application information about all the pesticides applied within the last 30 days in a central location accessible to all of their workers. Specific pesticide application information is crucial in obtaining the best medical care in case of emergency.

EPA also issued complaints on June 3, 2003 against the four other Colorado growers for violations that include failure to post emergency information in a central location and failure to post pesticide-specific application information in a central location. For the violations, EPA is proposing civil administrative penalties ranging from $2,200 to $23,320.

The Colorado growers have 30 days to either pay the penalty or answer EPA's charges and request a hearing. They also may request an informal conference with EPA anytime to discuss the allegations.

WPS regulations are designed to reduce poisoning and injuries among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. They regulate pesticide use and require that workers and pesticide handlers be given appropriate training, equipment and information. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that agricultural workers suffer from high rates of illnesses commonly correlated with chemical usage. Tens of thousands of illnesses are reported each year. Workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticides and handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation or inadequate protective equipment.

The WPS offers protections to more than 3.5 million people who work with pesticides at over 560,000 workplaces. Specifically, growers are required to restrict entry to treated areas; provide notification of pesticide applications; post specific information regarding pesticide applications (what, where and when); assure that workers have received safety training; post safety information; provide decontamination supplies; and provide access to emergency assistance when needed.

State agencies generally have primary jurisdiction for enforcing WPS misuse violations. EPA, however, has primary jurisdiction in Wyoming and partial primary jurisdiction in Colorado. EPA will also prosecute cases referred to it by the States.

Regulated parties who want to come into compliance can find information concerning the WPS at

Framework for Cumulative Risk Assessment Released

To advance the application of sound science to policy-making, EPA has released the "Framework for Cumulative Risk Assessment," an integrated approach to environmental risk assessment. Cumulative risk assessment is the analysis of the combined risks to human health or the environment from multiple pollutants transmitted through multiple pathways of exposure. This holistic approach differs from the traditional study of one pollutant's effect on one population through one medium (air, water, land), in recognizing that people and ecosystems are impacted by a number of stressors simultaneously through different pathways. The Framework identifies key terms and basic elements of the assessment process and provides a flexible structure for addressing relevant scientific issues. EPA risk assessors will use the Framework as a basis for future guidance as EPA continues with assessment and regulatory activities. The Framework document is available on the Internet at:

European Commission Publishes Draft New Chemicals Legislation for Consultation

Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen and Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström have presented new proposals to overhaul and modernize the EU's regulatory system for chemicals. Following discussion of their approach, the European Commission gave the go-ahead for an 8 weeks' Internet consultation on the draft chemicals legislation. The aims of the proposed new Regulation, which will replace 40 different pieces of current legislation, are to increase the protection of human health and the environment from exposure to chemicals while at the same time to maintain and enhance the competitiveness and innovative capability of the EU chemicals industry. In delivering both these aims, the proposals aims at fully conforming to the balanced approach required by sustainable development. The Internet consultation will enable interested parties to comment on the detail of the future legal requirements before the proposal is finalized by the Commission.

The REACH System (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of Chemicals)

The draft legislation, which will replace over 40 existing directives and regulations, will implement the proposals set out in the Commission's February 2001 White Paper on the Strategy for a future Chemicals policy (see IP/01/201). At its core is REACH: a single, integrated system for the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of CHemicals. REACH will place a duty on companies which produce, import and use chemicals to assess the risks arising from their use requiring new test data to be generated in justified cases - and to take the necessary measures to manage any risks they identify. This will reverse the burden of proof from public authorities to industry for putting safe chemicals on the market. Testing results have to be shared to reduce any likely animal testing. Registration of information on the properties, uses and safe use of chemical substances will be an integral part of the new system.

Scope of REACH

The exact registration requirements will vary depending on the volume in which a substance is produced, and on the likelihood of exposure to humans or the environment. A phased-in system lasting up to 11 years is foreseen. Higher tonnage substances would require the most data, and would have to be registered first; lower tonnage substances would require less data and be registered later. The latter provisions will particularly reduce the regulatory burden on small and medium sized enterprises.

Tighter controls will be introduced for the chemicals of highest concern. Thus, certain types of substances such as carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxicants (CMRs), persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (PBTs) and very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances (vPvBs) will be subjected to an authorization regime and would be registered early. In certain cases also other substances, for example with endocrine disruption effects, could be included on a case by case basis within the authorization system where it is shown that they give rise to the same level of concern.

Each use of such substances will have to be authorized for a specific use. Decisions would be based on a risk assessment and consideration of other socio-economic factors.

Others, such as polymers (chemicals used as raw materials for plastics and detergents and a wide variety of other products), and substances used as intermediates (chemicals used to make other chemical substances or other products) will be subject to substantially lighter registration requirements. In many cases, where there is little risk of exposure, polymers and intermediates will be exempted from registration.

It is expected that around 80% of all substances will only have to be registered, the rest will have to undergo evaluations for safety and subsequent authorization

The Member States will be responsible for the evaluation of substances by examining certain registration dossiers, as well as checking the application of REACH within their own territories. They will also be able to suggest restrictions on the use of substances based on a structured risk assessment - where they consider that EU legislative action is necessary, although the final decision on such restrictions would be taken by the Commission.

The Commission would grant authorizations after taking into account the views of the Agency on the risk and on the socio-economic aspects. Authorization decisions will take into account the guarantees provided by the applicant firms and available information on alternative substances and processes that may reduce the risk posed. To simplify the system and to reduce costs, an authorization will be valid for enterprises further down the supply chain as long as they abide by the conditions of the authorization for the intended use and inform the Agency.

A new Agency

A new Chemicals Agency is proposed to manage REACH which will have the task of ensuring the efficient operation of the new system. This will include providing advice to the Commission, and guidance to Member States and to enterprises, including SMEs. Non-confidential data generated by REACH will be made available to downstream users of chemicals and to the general public in a publicly accessible database managed by the Agency.

Research and Innovation

Research and innovation vital for the competitiveness of many small businesses in this sector will be encouraged by allowing research and development to take place without registration for 5 years, extendable to 10 years, which is a considerable extension of existing provisions.

In order to keep the need for animal testing to a minimum and to keep costs down, a system of data-sharing among companies is proposed. In addition, important elements of flexibility are proposed within the testing requirements, allowing industry to use alternative sources of information to fill data gaps, or to argue that certain tests are unnecessary because of a lack of exposure.

Objective of Internet Consultation

The purpose of the Internet consultation is to test the workability of the proposals with stakeholders. There are about 1200 pages of legislative text, largely made up of technical annexes that are not new requirements, as well as a range of brand new procedures. The Commission would like feedback on the drafts before finalizing its proposal as soon as possible.

The text of the proposals may be found at: or

NC Oil Refinery President Sentenced in Oil Pollution/Tax Evasion Case

Andrew Jackson Simmons, Jr., of Wilmington, N.C., President of High Rise Services Company, Inc., was sentenced to two years in prison, three years supervised release, a $50,000 fine and to pay the costs of his prosecution on the income tax charges by U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in Wilmington. Simmons previously pled guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and to income tax evasion.

High Rise Services is in the business of re-refining used oils into useable products and cleaning storage tanks. Illegal operations at the company led to the discharge of oil into the Cape Fear River. Releasing oil into surface waters can make the waters unfit for recreation and drinking and can cause significant harm to fish and wildlife. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office, the U.S. Coast Guard Criminal Investigation Division, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

EPA Improves Availability of Service and Repair Information for Vehicles with OBD Systems

Final revisions to EPA's Service Information Rule will make vehicle repair information for passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks more accessible to service and repair technicians. All 1996 and newer passenger vehicles are required to have On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) systems. Under the revisions, all heavy-duty trucks beginning in 2005 will be required to have OBD systems. The system is designed to trigger a "check engine" light on the dashboard of a vehicle or truck if the various pollution control devices are not functioning properly. This rule will require that the repair information be readily available on the Internet. To effectively service OBD-equipped vehicles and trucks, independent auto technicians will have access to the same emissions-related repair information and in the same manner as the manufacturer's franchised dealerships. Consumers will have more choices on where their vehicles will be serviced. For more information, go to: .