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07 Sep 2012
court room gavel

Scotts Miracle Gro Fined $12.5 Million in Pesticide Case

CONTACT:
Enesta Jones
jones.enesta@epa.gov
202-564-7873
202-564-4355

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2012

Scotts Miracle-Gro Will Pay $12.5 Million in Criminal Fines and Civil Penalties for Violations of Federal Pesticide Laws

WASHINGTON — The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a producer of pesticides for commercial and consumer lawn and garden uses, was sentenced today in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the manufacture, distribution, and sale of pesticides. Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. This is the largest criminal penalty under FIFRA to date.

In a separate civil agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolves additional civil pesticide violations. The violations include distributing or selling unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. This is the largest civil settlement under FIFRA to date.

“The misuse or mislabeling of pesticide products can cause serious illness in humans and be toxic to wildlife,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentence and unprecedented civil settlement hold Scotts accountable for widespread company noncompliance with pesticide laws, which put products into the hands of consumers without the proper authorization or warning labels.”

“As the world’s largest marketer of residential use pesticides, Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws governing the sale and use of its products. For having failed to do so, Scotts has been sentenced to pay the largest fine in the history of FIFRA enforcement,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with EPA to assure that pesticides applied in homes and on lawns and food are sold and used in compliance with the laws intended to assure their safety.”

In the plea agreement, Scotts admitted that it applied the pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II to its bird food products even though EPA had prohibited this use. Scotts had done so to protect its bird foods from insect infestation during storage. Scotts admitted that it used these pesticides contrary to EPA directives and in spite of the warning label appearing on all Storicide II containers stating, “Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.” Scotts sold this illegally treated bird food for two years after it began marketing its bird food line and for six months after employees specifically warned Scotts management of the dangers of these pesticides. By the time it voluntarily recalled these products in March 2008, Scotts had sold more than 70 million units of bird food illegally treated with pesticide that is toxic to birds.

Scotts also pleaded guilty to submitting false documents to EPA and to state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive them into believing that numerous pesticides were registered with EPA when in fact they were not. The company also pleaded guilty to having illegally sold the unregistered pesticides and to marketing pesticides bearing labels containing false and misleading claims not approved by EPA. The falsified documents submitted to EPA and states were attributed to a federal product manager at Scotts.

In addition to the $4 million criminal fine, Scotts will contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird habitat, including $100,000 each to the Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Forestry Program, the Columbus Metro-Parks Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory, and The Nature Conservancy of Ohio to support the protection of bird populations and habitats through conservation, research, and education.

At the time the criminal violations were discovered, EPA also began a civil investigation that uncovered numerous civil violations spanning five years. Scotts’ FIFRA civil violations included the nationwide distribution or sale of unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. As a result, EPA issued more than 40 Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders to Scotts to address more than 100 pesticide products.

In addition to the $6 million civil penalty, Scotts will complete environmental projects, valued at $2 million, to acquire, restore and protect 300 acres of land to prevent runoff of agricultural chemicals into nearby waterways.

The criminal case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Environmental Enforcement Unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation. It was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy F. Korzenik of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, by Michael J. McClary, EPA Criminal Enforcement Counsel and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous.

The civil case was investigated by U.S. EPA Region 5’s Land and Chemicals Division and Office of Regional Counsel, and the U.S. EPA Headquarters Office of Civil Enforcement, assisted by the Office of Pesticides Program.

More information about the civil settlement and recalled products: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/fifra/scottsmiraclegro.html

19 Oct 2011
weed control

Controlling Weeds Organically

Traditional lawn care since the late 1940’s has feasted on a one-size-fits-all approach to weed control that paints every plant with the same broad stroke. However, the EPA estimates that only 2 percent of the active ingredients in synthetic weed killers, called herbicides, ever reach the target plant. The other 98 percent goes into the soil, the ground water, and the atmosphere. Organic land care specialists believe that the best tool against weeds is a healthy grass plant, which can only happen with healthy soils, and that takes time, especially on yards that have an abundance of weeds.

Weeds are telling you something about your yard. Each weed seed is genetically programmed to replace specific deficiencies in the soil. For example, if your lawn is missing nitrogen, nature will often send in clover or one of its cousins in the legume family of plants, which can trap and process nitrogen from the atmosphere. If your lawn conversely, has too much nitrogen, nature will likely give you an abundance of dandelions. Again, our approach to eliminate weeds is to improve your soil through an appropriate balance of biology and nutrients and improving soil texture and structure. This takes time if your soil is out of balance. The organic approach is not a quick fix, it’s a healthy and safe alternative approach (to chemicals) which benefits our family and our environment. Now, having said that, here are some tools to get rid of weeds without chemicals:

* Total eradication using nonselective sprays or solarizing techniques

* Spot weeding with nonselective sprays, flaming or mechanical tools

* Pre-emergent weed control in spring and fall

* Soil modification that gets to the root of the problem

* Overseeding with new grass seed to crowd out weeds

* Mowing at an appropriate height and bagging only occasionally (first cut of the year, right after dandelions go to seed, right before winter)

If all else fails, use a synthetic herbicide that targets the weeds that are taking over your lawn, and then start fresh with an organic approach to achieving a healthy soil.

13 Oct 2011
Composed Tea

What Can I Do to Prepare My Yard for the Winter?

A number of our clients have asked this question, so much so, that it was worthy of an article.

As temperatures begin to lower here in Wisconsin so does the growth rate of much of our outside plant life, including turf. According to Paul Tukey, founding editor of People, Places and Plants magazine, executive producer of an HGTV show of the same name and the author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual, “the most important factor to remember is to mow the grass low, to about 2 inches.” Longer grass is a safe haven for mice, or voles, which will hide in the lawn and leave telltale trails of damage in the spring.” Taller grass is also a feeding ground for snow mold.

Tukey also suggests an application of compost tea just before winter to help maximize the number of microbes in the soil heading into the cold season. Backyard organics provides this treatment in the fall application, typically applied in mid to late September.

Most experts agree that turf in our part of the country requires three season maintenance programs to have a healthy lawn. For maximum payoff next spring, prepare your lawn for winter in early fall. Here are some additional suggestions:

Avoid heavy snow build up in any one particular area

Plow snow 1 to 2” above your turf

Avoid sodium based ice melters, which are not only harmful to your lawn but also your pets. Use calcium chloride instead.

Clear debris. A clear lawn allows sunlight, water, and nutrients to reach the soil and limits the amount of mold potential. A clean lawn also is a good start to avoiding mice, moles, and voles from moving in.

De-thatch. Thatch (layers of dead grass) creates a natural barrier for water and nutrients to reach your soil. (Backyard Organics provides a product in the early fall application that turns thatch into organic matter, thus enriching your soil and eliminating the labor of removing it.

Aerate. This allows water and nutrients to reach the roots and nourish the grass while reversing soil compaction.

Water. 1 to 2” per week just before the first big freeze should suffice

Sharpen your tools. This eliminates the “tearing” of grass which could make it susceptible to diseases.
Avoid heavy traffic in any particular area which can cause winter kill.

Go easy on the pruning. Pruning promotes growth and we don’t want plants growing just before the dormant season. Cut away dead wood, however, to avoid insect habitation.

Cover that plot. To prep your garden for winter, plant a nitrogen-rich cover crop such as clover that you can simply turn under come spring, or keep the weeds at bay with a burlap cover, suggests Elaine Anderson, program coordinator for the Washington State University/King County Extension Master Gardener Program.

Transplant.
Now is a great time to transplant your trees, plants, and shrubs.

Mulch. Pull mulch away from trunks in an effort to avoid moles, voles and mice from feeding on them.

So, don’t hibernate just yet. Now may be the best time to take care of your yard for 2012.