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Nov 15, 2013

AGGRESSIVE NEW RODENT CONTROL INITIATIVES ANNOUNCED; City Exploring Rodent Fertility Management

Comprehensive Integrated Pest Management Plan to include:

·      Financial assistance for residential rodent control;

·      Proposed new uniform residential trash barrel program;

·      Comprehensive dumpster inspection and enforcement;

·      Establishment of the Rodent Action Team (RAT); and

·      Testing of rodent fertility management as piloted in New York City

SOMERVILLE – It’s war. A broad new Integrated Pest Management Plan will intensify existing City rodent control programs with an unprecedented package of aggressive and cutting edge initiatives, including providing free rodent control for qualifying residential properties and testing of rodent fertility management found highly effective as piloted by the New York City subway system, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced Friday. The plan also proposes uniform residential trash barrels with closed lid requirements coupled with increased trash ordinance enforcement; citywide dumpster tracking, inspection and enforcement; and the founding of the interdepartmental Rodent Action Team (RAT) to accelerate rodent control efforts. The Rodent Action Team began meeting in September and the additional new initiatives will be implemented over the coming months and into spring.

“Cities across the northeast are reporting the same trend: more rats. As our winters have grown warmer, the rat population has grown the past couple of years because the winters are no longer cold enough to decrease their numbers. This shift in conditions requires more aggressive approaches to rodent control,” said Mayor Curtatone. “These new initiatives will not only build upon the multi-tiered rodent control efforts we already have in place—they will allow us to tackle this problem from nearly every angle. With the participation of the community, Somerville will lead the way in municipal integrated pest management.”

The Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program is planned to launch early next year (2014) and will offer up to 2,000 homeowners per year free one-time rodent control services including baiting, dusting and trapping, reaching nearly one-third of owner-occupied one-to-three-family homes in the city. City Health inspectors will survey the property for evidence of rodents and provide educational materials on rodent prevention to qualifying owner-occupants, who must agree to take recommended rodent prevention actions (such as removing pet food bowls from outdoors or clearing debris from yards) in exchange for the recommended free rodent abatement treatment of their choice. Extermination services will be provided by a licensed pest control company and will go first to those with financial hardship, veterans, the elderly and persons with disabilities, and then to additional households. A request for proposals (RFP) for a service provider is expected to be issued by the end of the year.

“Offering financial assistance will allow us to increase extermination services in our neighborhoods and provide more opportunities for public education around rodent control. Both are crucial,” said Goran Smiljic, Superintendent of Inspectional Services. “Inspectors will walk private properties with owners identifying the contributing factors many never notice, such as fallen fruit, a leaky faucet, or improperly stored trash. And we know that while everyone wants to reduce rodent numbers, the cost of treatment can be prohibitive for some of our residents. By offering financial assistance, we will expand our efforts to increase quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

For the proposed uniform residential trash barrel program, which is in development for a launch next spring, residents would be required to dispose of household trash in city-issued plastic trash bins with attached lids, similar to zero-sort recycling toters. Currently trash must be kept in bins with lids while being stored. But bins may be placed on the curb for pickup without lids (because the lids are often lost during trash pickup). To remove this food source for rodents, the new bins would have attached, fitted lids, and the requirement that the bins be kept closed at all times will be strictly enforced.

“Uniform trash bins and increased enforcement of trash disposal rules is a logical next step in both our rodent control efforts as well as for keeping our streets looking clean and attractive,” said Alderman-at-Large Jack Connolly. “Combined with the other rodent control efforts in this package of initiatives, and with the Board and the Mayor united in their determination to address this issue, I believe residents will begin to see a greater impact on the problem.”

The City’s new Code Enforcement Officer hired by Inspectional Services in October has already begun an inventory of dumpsters citywide. As part of Comprehensive Dumpster Inspection and Enforcement, all dumpsters will be licensed and regularly inspected to ensure they do not provide food sources for rodents. Businesses and property owners with dumpsters will receive guidance on sanitation requirements and how to reduce rodent access to the dumpster.  The City’s Rodent Action Team is reviewing current local health regulations and recommendations to ensure dumpster -contractors, business and property owners maintain dumpsters and clean them properly.

“Dumpsters can be a significant food source for rodents, but this is a problem you can’t always see,” said Smiljic. “We regularly inspect food establishments for any rodent activity, but we also need the cooperation of the dumpster contractors to guarantee dumpster maintenance and cleaning. The enforcement officer will be working with both businesses with dumpsters as well as the dumpster contractors to ensure this happens.”

Following the lead of New York City, which has piloted the testing of Rodent Fertility Management in the United States, the City has been in talks with biotechnology company SenesTech, Inc., regarding the use of this humane and cutting-edge approach for reducing rodent populations. SenesTech is currently preparing a proposal for Somerville for limited testing of rodent fertility management that reduces (but does not eliminate) rodent populations by suppressing their reproductive capabilities. According to SenesTech’s research, the bait used is not lethal, does not affect other species or humans and does not enter the food chain because it is metabolized by rats within 15 minutes. The technique has been used with success by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and in numerous Asian agricultural areas where rats pose a serious threat to rice harvests.

“SenesTech has been fielding requests by cities and entities across the globe, but they were particularly impressed by the extensive data that the City analyzes and maintains on rodent sightings and control efforts. So we were able to interest them in considering Somerville for their next efforts, which also include other locations in New York,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We are looking forward to SenesTech’s proposal.”

Finally, an interdepartmental Rodent Task Force, known as RAT for Rodent Action Team and composed of City staff and Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston as the Board of Aldermen’s representative, was founded by Mayor Curtatone and has been meeting twice-monthly since September. The team’s mission is to accelerate rodent control efforts, research best practices and develop new rodent control initiatives and outreach plans. Members include staff from Inspectional Services, the Health Department, the SomerStat performance management office, Communications, Constituent Services (311) and the City Solicitor’s Office.

“We have been working diligently to attack this problem, and in my own ward I’ve heard from residents that our efforts are helping. But we still have more work to do and this package of new initiatives is going to give us even more tools to have an impact,” said Alderman Heuston. “But this is a partnership. The City is putting significant time and resources into this quality of life effort, and if residents in affected areas work with us by participating in the rodent control assistance program, maintaining their properties, covering their trash bins and reporting issues to 311, we will tackle this together.”

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