THE KEYNOTER

Floating pesticide found
Firefighters called to handle hazardous material

Keynoter Staff Keynoter@Keynoter

The skull-and-crossbones was evident, but bridge fishermen on Tavernier Creek knew this was no pirate’s treasure.

Two packages of a pesticide floated into Upper Keys shores over the weekend, one found near the Tavernier Creek Bridge and the other near Harry Harris Park.

"The fishermen saw the skull-and-crossbones marking – a hazardous materials warning – and called 911," said Islamorada Fire Chief William Wagner. "The Sheriff’s [Office] deputies saw it and called us."

He said the packages had contained aluminum phosphine, which emits a toxic gas that kills insects in stored grain.

"We believe most of the product was spent, probably on a cargo ship, and then the packages were thrown overboard," said Wagner. "But anybody seeing one of these packages should play it safe and call authorities."

The packages were described as several feet long and narrow.

Boat traffic through Tavernier Creek was halted while Islamorada firefighters donned hazardous-materials gear to collect the packages.

The materials were turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard for destruction.