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Fewer Rats in the Neighborhood But Still a Ways To Go

Residents can help by reporting sightings, watching where the rodents go.

A group of residents and landlords agree that the rodent problem in the North End is much better than in years past but still requires vigilant monitoring.

On Tuesday night, Sept. 4, the North End Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) Parks and Open Spaces Committee met at the Nazzaro Center where John Meaney, Director of Environmental Services, provided an update on the rodent control efforts in the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods.

The good news is that his office in the Inspectional Services Department has been way down in complaints about rats this year, Meaney said.

And he is grateful for the help residents provide.

“The good thing about this community is that people spend a lot of time outside,” Meaney said. “They’re not hesitant to call if they see a rat.”

Keep that up, he advises.

“Even if you see one rat, call us,” Meaney said. “Watch where it goes (because rats are creatures of habit and will return to the same spot as long as possible).”

In addition, he urges landlords to educate their tenants about proper garbage disposal and make “spot checks” to ensure that renters are maintaining sanitary conditions in their apartments as required by law.

Should anyone see a tenant who is not following the trash rules, Meaney said to call his office and his staff will conduct an inspection.

Progress to date

Meaney’s department chemically treats the sewer lines each fall and spring for rat control and keeps up with “hot spots” approximately once a month in the summer.

In response to a resident’s concern with seeing rats at Rose Kennedy Park, he said the department will be monitoring there quite carefully in the coming weeks.

“We put poison in man holes and do it very deep so that we don’t have the recent problem with two dogs eating it,” Meaney said.

By law, he pointed out, a resident can perform his or her own rat control if three or four are seen on private property.

However, Meaney warned that no one should throw out rat poison in public places. And, to ensure no other dogs are affected, all should be leashed and their owners must pick up after them.

“Dog feces can be rat food,” Meaney explained.

As far human health, he said the biggest concern is food-borne diseases rats can spread such as salmonella.

Possibly just as toxic in its way, Meaney said, is the fear that seeing a rat causes.

He described a recent occurrence where a woman who works in the medical field spotted a rat that surfaced (likely through the sewer system) in her toilet.

“This woman deals with blood and guts all day but when she saw a rat, it was so stressful that she had to be taken to the hospital,” he said.

During the hour-long meeting, several residents explained their distress with commercial establishments and the way some of them dispose of their trash – in bags rather than bins and put on the street the same day that residential pick-up is scheduled.

That means the residents are paying for the commercial trash disposal, the residents said.

Meaney advised that residents report such sightings to his office.

Can the rat problem be eradicated?

“If you can stop reproduction for mosquitoes, why not for rats?” asked landlord and resident Janet Gilardi.

On Oct. 19-21, the World Pest Control Conference will be taking place in Boston, Meaney said.

With so many experts in one room, he promised to “pick their brains” for an answer to Gilardi’s question.

For additional information or to report a rat sighting, contact John Meaney at 617-635-5352 or email him at John.Meaney@cityofboston.gov

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