New York State
Fines Clarke Mosquito Management for $1 Million
On June 4, 2001, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that it was fining Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management a total of $1 million for violating state pesticide laws in the company's conduct of New York City's West Nile spray campaign last year, and for illegal pesticide sales in upstate counties. In addition, the DEC will increase oversight to ensure Clarke's future compliance with state and federal regulations on the training and certification of pesticide applicators. The State's decision comes on top of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's citations of Clarke for five serious violations of the law protecting workers from harmful working conditions, issued in late March.
Upon hearing of the decision, Kent Smith, a former Clarke employee, said, "I'm happy that Clarke will finally have to pay for damaging our health. And it wasn't only the workers' health: when Clarke tested all their spray trucks at the depot everyday, they fogged the whole neighborhood. I and the other workers wanted to make sure that Clarke is never allowed to spray in New York City again."
Late yesterday, Clarke issued a statement announcing that although it had agreed to the DEC's terms, it still denied any wrongdoing. Reacting to Clarke's written assertions that there were no training violations, Samuel Gowrie said: "Not only did they not train us, they did not equip us properly. I complained on the job about feeling bad, and they took it as a joke. No training, no mask, no gloves...no nothing! And I am still feeling the effects from the spraying."
Joel Kupferman, Executive
Director of the NYELJP said: "The Health Department has claimed all
along to have exercised a high level of supervision over the spraying,
and City's WNV hotline assured members of the public again and again that
all pesticide spraying was being done in accordance with state and federal
regulations. The City says it was spraying because of a public health
emergency, meanwhile they were allowing their contractor to create a public
health emergency right under their own noses. Since the City Health Department
is the agency with primary responsibility for West Nile spraying,
it in turn must share the blame for unleashing an illegal pesticide operation onto the streets of New York."
"Clarke has endangered
not only its workers but the general public as well by assigning workers
to spray hazardous chemicals without adequate training and without the
proper equipment," said Joel Shufro, Executive Director of the New
York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). "The
City owes it to workers and its residents to exercise control to insure
that such irresponsible and dangerous behavior is never repeated,"
he added. Currently, the Law Project is working with the NYCOSH to strengthen
worker protections and to improve enforcement.