Contributing Reporters on this Newscast: Jane Regan


News Segment Article:
Somerville, MA, June 3, 2014 – New trash cans, tighter regulations on dumpsters, financial aid for rat-ridden households and an experimental birth control bait are all being rolled out in the city’s war on rats.

“With the ‘War on Rats’ we are looking to use a multiple-layered strategy. One is to provide more uniform trash enforcement, both for residental trash and commercial trash,” Paulette Renault-Caragianes, Director of the city’s Health Department, told the Somerville Neighborhood News as she demonstrated how the new trash bins work.

“These trash bins are going to be distributed for free to city residents, and it’s going to be one per unit of housing,” Ellen Schneider Collins, Operations Manager for the city’s Inspectional Services Division/Health deparment added.

The city has also added an inspector who is focusing almost entirely on registering and inspecting the city’s hundreds of dumpsters, and it will provide financial aid for those residents who discover infestations but cannot afford to pay an exterminator.

“Residents within certain income and household guidelines” will get help, Renault-Caragianes explained.

On a recent field visit, Inspectional Services Division (ISD) staff discovered uncovered trash bins, messy woodpiles and open dumpsters. And a great deal of uneaten bait in catch basins.

Rats won’t eat poison-laced bait when there’s such good food available, according to Guy Selfridge Jr., ISD’s Chief Code Enforcement Officer. He pointed out an open trash can piled high with garbage.

“The rodents just have to jump from the ground and have it,” he said. “Until that stops, there’s no reason for the rats to go anywhere else.”

Somerville is also embarking on a pilot with an experimental bait known as “ContraPest.”

The bait – liquid or solid food made with a “chemosterilant” containing 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide – will be inside locked bait boxes. In a recent field test in New York City’s subway trash rooms, over half the rats consumed the bait.

The “war” is costing the city at least $369,605 during the current fiscal year, and will cost at least $335,113 during FY2015. Those numbers do not include the staff time of city staff like Collins and Selfridge.

Every time a new anti-rat initiative is announced, Boston area media write articles and run news segments about Somerville and its rodent population. But the city doesn’t have a bigger problem than its neighbors, Somerstat Director Daniel Hadley said.

“Somerville’s not alone in this. We’re probably just alone in addressing it head on,” Hadley explained.

The city saw a substantial increase in rat reports following the warm winter in 2011, but so did its neighbors.

“Boston saw numbers, peaks and valleys that are almost identical to ours,” Hadley said.

Most of the rat calls come from the area around the railroad bed, Hadley noted.

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