HERMISTON — The Idaho-based food and agriculture company J.R. Simplot has agreed to pay a $65,248 fine for violating federal pesticide regulations at their locations in Moreland, Idaho, and Umatilla.

According to a press release Wednesday, July 21, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an inspection of the company’s Umatilla facility found a 12-inch hole in the floor of the warehouse, allowing any stored liquid to pollute the ground underneath.

The facility stores Gramoxone SL 2.0 and Vydate. Gramoxone SL 2.0 targets grass and other weeds in crops and can cause skin irritation, damage to organs and is fatal if inhaled, according to safety data sheets. Vydate, which is used against parasites, also is toxic to aquatic organisms, birds and mammals.

Ed Kowalski, the director of EPA Region 10’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, said in the press release, “Pesticides facilities have a responsibility to ensure their products are safely stored so that the people working there and living nearby are not exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals.”

The Moreland, Idaho, facility was found to have two large containers with leaking gaskets that allowed Vapam HL, a soil fumigant for potatoes, berry, vegetables and crops, to spill onto the floor.

“The company failed to remove the spilled pesticide which then solidified on the ground, creating a potentially hazardous situation where employees could be exposed to the pesticide,” according to the press release.

“As soon as we learned of these issues we worked immediately to correct them,” said Josh Jordan, the senior manager of communications and public relations for the J.R. Simplot Company. “Simplot works diligently to meet our regulatory obligations and takes them very seriously. We appreciate working with the EPA to resolve this issue.”

This is not the first time that the company has been fined for breaking regulations. According to data from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Simplot has had nine separate enforcements issued against it since 1998 totaling $66,591.

The state last fined J.R. Simplot in the Hermiston area in 2005 for reducing the water quality below state water quality standards in 2005. The fine was $9,600.

Reporter for the East Oregonian and Hermiston Herald focusing on the Hermiston, Umatilla and Stanfield areas. Feel free to send him news tips or story ideas at nrosenberger@eastoregonian.com

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