Illegal Chemical Use Results In $189,000 Fine

Use of sodium cyanide stings bee keepers, dealers in widespread case. Compiled by staff


Published on: Mar 1, 2005

The loss of three containers of pesticide from the back of a truck in North Dakota last September has resulted in a total of $189,000 in fines for alleged violations of state pesticide laws.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture has has fined 11 companies in a case involving illegal use of sodium cyanide to disinfect bee hives. The product – which can be lethal when used improperly – is legally used in extracting precious metals, case-hardening steel and electroplating.

The ag department levied the largest penalty – $54,000 –-against EnviroKem, a Washburn-based chemical dealership with warehouses in Minot.

Others receiving notification of civil penalties included Joseph Leiting (Leiting Honey), Cavalier, $37,000; John and Paul Roeder, Hebron, $34,000; Richard Gunter (Gunter Honey), Towner, $19,000; Ed's Honey (Ed Fetch), Dickinson, $12,000; Ernest Natwick, Bantry, $12,000; Doug Perkins, Aneta, $8,500; Lonnie Thompson, New Rockford, $6,000; Mason Maxwell, Turtle Lake, $3,000; Chris Charles, Carrington, $3,000, and Mitch Charles, Carrington, $1,000.

The amount of the individual fines was determined by a formula that takes into account the offenses involved and the number of violations, as provided by state law, says Roger Johnson, North Dakota agriculture commissioner.

Under the formula, violations included human endangerment ($5,000), improper container disposal ($1,500), insecure transport ($1,000) and transportation and distribution ($1,000).

The penalties are levied for alleged violations, and that any of those penalized have the right to a hearing before an administrative law judge.

“There is no cause to avoid honey or honey products,” Johnson says. “Although the cyanide was used to disinfect beehives, tests indicate no cyanide residue in the honey supply. The use poses no risk to honey consumers, but it could endanger the persons handling the cyanide or the environment.”

The case first came to light on Sept. 30, 2004, when passing motorists found two drums of sodium cyanide along N.D. Highway 1, north of Lakota. A trucker admitted that three barrels had fallen off his vehicle, and a ground and aerial search was launched to find the missing barrel. The missing barrel was found Oct. 12, in a water-filled ditch along Highway 1 near Brocket.

Investigators charge that 54 containers of sodium cyanide had been sold in North Dakota over the past two years. All have been allegedly traced to EnviroKem. Eleven locations in North Dakota and six locations in other states were involved.

“Thanks to the investigation here, we have learned that this case is not unique to North Dakota,” Johnson says. “The EPA and agriculture departments in several other states are now following up with investigating cyanide violations.”