At its first meeting of the fall on Monday, Sept. 3, Council addressed complaints of a surge in the city’s rat population, perhaps due to an increase in recent construction projects.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky said he had received numerous phone calls from residents, not only in his own ward, but also from around the city who are seeking a solution to the city’s rat problem. He identified the following streets as being areas of concern: Bolster, Elm, Elsie, Estes, George and Paris.
“This may not seem like an issue that affects everybody, but it’s all over the city,” he said. “They’re coming from somewhere. There has to be an awareness.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin echoed the need for increased focus on the streets listed by Councilor Matewsky, and added to them Maplewood, Richdale and Rosedale. He said that rather than focusing on individual streets, the City should look into a citywide solution.
There have already been some actions taken to address the problem.
Aware that construction disturbs rodent populations, Councilor John McKinnon sponsored an ordinance that requires that all developers of properties within Everett put out rodent traps in order to mitigate the problem.
James Soper, the Director of Inspectional Services at the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), is aware of the issue and is “doubling down” on his efforts, according to Councilor Matewsky. His department realized a survey on George Street specifically and is in the process of handing out fliers that urge residents to keep their trash barrels covered.
However, Councilor Peter Napolitano believes trash awareness isn’t enough.
“Code Enforcement makes a nice flier, but if you come to my house, I can show you a City trash barrel that the rats gnawed through,” he said. “Something needs to be done.”
The councilor said that while working at Home Depot, he interacts with customers “fighting rats and mice in neighborhoods that never had these problems before.” One of his neighbors keeps a bag of rats he has killed on his property that currently numbers 18.
Councilor Napolitano said that attacking the rodent population by focusing on residents securing their garbage cans doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
“It just pushes the rats somewhere else,” he said. “It’s spreading and it’s not going away.”
Councilor Rosa DiFlorio called the rat problem a health issue and said that the City’s Board of Health should be in charge of managing it, not the ISD. She also said it should not be up to just developers and contractors to lay traps, and called for a larger coordinated citywide effort spearheaded by the Board of Health.
Rats are known for being carriers of disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rats in the Northeast can directly transmit diseases to humans, including rat-bite fever, tularemia and salmonella. They can also indirectly transmit Lyme disease, encephalitis and a number of other unpleasant conditions.
Councilors mentioned that they can take a lesson from successful efforts that have been made in neighboring cities like Malden and Boston to curb their rodent populations.
New York City, which has had a notorious rat problem for decades, just last week rolled out a new liquid trap that paralyzes and eventually drowns the pests, much to the ire of animal rights activists.
The Council asked the clerk to request a response from the Board of Health and revisit the issue in two weeks. They also ask that Council be updated in writing on any city plans to address rodent infestation going forward.
In the meantime, residents can learn how to safeguard their homes against rodents by going to cdc.gov/rodents.