Rat War : City Officials Look to Curb Rodent Problem

September 12, 2012
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Just last month, Sharon DeLorey came upon something unnerving.

It’s just the kind of something that residents all over Revere are encountering, and one in which no one is happy to speak of.

It’s kind of become a dirty secret.

But there it was that day last month, sitting lazily in the playground at the Whelan School, chasing kids away from the slide and frightening them from the swings.

That something was a rat – and the unspeakable rodents are finding their way into almost every neighborhood, even those that have historically never encountered rats.

“I am writing this in hopes of raising awareness of the prevalent issue that is currently plaguing the City of Revere,” wrote DeLorey in a recent letter to the Journal. “It is quite disturbing and leaves me with a nagging question as to why are these scoundrels showing up in an area that is not immediately surrounded by marshland? I recently saw a rat pushing 12 inches long loitering lazily in the Whelan School Park when I brought my son there to play.”

The problem doesn’t only exist in the Whelan School area. Neighbors in the Park Avenue, Dale Street area have noted a huge uptick in the population – as have many other neighborhoods where extensive sewer line work is being conducted in accordance with the City’s Consent Decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In response to complaints coming in from all over the City in the last 18 months, the City Council passed a new trash ordinance in 2011 that required residents to store their trash more carefully and put it on the curb more securely.

That hard-fought ordinance has worked somewhat, but not enough to curb the rat problem that is growing in the City.

But that problem isn’t just growing in Revere.

In fact, many cities and towns are encountering the same problem, and Mayor Dan Rizzo and the Revere Health Department tried to get a leg up on the problem by holding a multi-City forum on rodent elimination earlier this summer. Officials from Everett, Chelsea, Boston and others attended and offered ideas.

Out of that forum came what City officials hope is a total solution – a new, very stringent Rodent Control Ordinance that Mayor Rizzo recently submitted to the City Council. That proposal will be heard in a public hearing at the Sept. 24thmeeting.

“Over the past few months, department heads across City Hall have been working to create this substantial ordinance in order to alleviate the rodent issues facing the city,” wrote Rizzo in a cover letter to the Council.

The ordinance attacks potential problems like digging in the street and building new structures – looking specifically at street opening permits and new construction building permits. Under the ordinance, those permits cannot be issued until it is proven that rodent and insect elimination measures have been taken. A violation or failure to do so could result in a $300 per day fine.

One major area of concern has been dumpsters, a breeding and feeding ground for the growing rat population. The ordinance requires that the City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) permit all dumpsters with a $50 fee per year. Part of that permit will require cleaning and sanitizing dumpsters three times per year. Dumpster permit holders must keep maintenance records and must submit a maintenance plan when they apply for the permit.

Failure to do either of these would carry a $50 fine per day, per dumpster.

Obviously, no one is in favor of new fees or costly regulations, but in this case, it appears that councillors believe the problem is more costly than the new regulation.

Most said they could envision some “tweaks” to the proposal, but the overall idea is long overdue.

In the case of DeLorey and a handful of others who have written letters to the Journal, there will likely be no resistance whatsoever. As DeLorey put it, with a half smirk, it’s either going to be the rodents or the resident.

“The city officials acknowledge this problem by the implementation of the trash mandate last year, but obviously that ‘solution’ lacks any real fortitude,” wrote DeLorey. “Do we need to make a deal with the Pied Piper to be able to stay in a place that has always been home? If so, who is he, and how can we get in touch with him – because I have a feeling it’s either going to be a mass exodus of rodents or residents.”

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