Frustration is mounting as both residents and civic leaders share a perception that no progress is being made in the battle of rodent infestation in the city. ~Photo by Harry Kane

Frustration is mounting as both residents and civic leaders share a perception that no progress is being made in the battle of rodent infestation in the city. – Photo by Harry Kane

By Harry Kane

Heat is building on guilt-ridden aldermen as the latest wave of rodent sightings has stirred resentment among residents in the City of Somerville. Rodents have been running rampant in East Somerville and in other areas of the city. The solution is nowhere in sight.

Aldermen agree that stringent regulations will be necessary to prevent rodents from growing in numbers. Just last week the Public Health and Safety Committee reported 22 new rodent-related items.

A rodent task force has yet to be set-up, but there is unanimous agreement among aldermen that a new strategy to exterminate the rodents must take form.

Board of Alderman President William A. White, Jr. said that a working group within the administration is searching for a solution, but that a task force would be better. “All you need is one problem property to cause issues for residents in the area,” said Alderman White. “You can have one hundred to two hundred people affected by one piece of property.”

Apparently, there is new computer software in the final stages of development that will help to combat the rodents. The software will monitor the problem properties and red flag them. A database of rodent-related incidents could help the Department of Inspectional Services find the hotspots in the city.

But the new software would not be an end-all fix to the problem, according to Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente. “Aside from software and computers we need health inspectors,” he said. “The computer system and software is not the solution here. We need bodies on the ground.”

During the Sept. 26 alderman meeting Alderman Lafuente asked for the Superintendent of Inspectional Services, Goran Smiljic, to address the Board with new strategies for exterminating the rodents.

The traditional methods of baiting and starving the rodents and taking their water source away has failed. Smiljic, who became the new Inspectional Services Director earlier this year is hoping the new computer program will help.

Much of the problem stems from construction projects that continue as Somerville builds new developments and residents rehab houses. Trash dumpsters at construction sites and at homes are sources of water and food for rodents.

At 15 to 18 months old, rats average eight to 10 young per litter. They average five to six litters per year, reported Lafuente, during the meeting. In one year, one pair of rats will produce 50 to 70 offspring that will reach maturity and bear young.

Lafuente explained that all the Alderman continue to receive non-stop emails. He received an email from someone so distraught about the rats in her backyard that the resident has decided to pay $80 a month to bait her property. Other residents are doing the same.

The city’s baiting program has not stopped the rodent epidemic. This is because the baiting is not being done across the entire city simultaneously, said Alderman Lafuente who was relaying what the exterminator who baited the woman’s home had said to him.  This across the board baiting program would be a much larger operation, but one that needs to be started, according to the Alderman.

Alderman at Large Dennis Sullivan recalled the last budget meeting when aldermen talked about installing a “Rodent Czar” to solve the rat conundrum. He says he was shocked at what he saw while driving around on Election Day near Franklin Street in East Somerville.

“Right in the middle of the street was a dead rat,” Alderman Sullivan said. He concluded that the rat had been hit by a car. “This is an epidemic. We keep talking about it. We keep spinning our wheels. But nothing seems to be happening.”

Despite Somerville’s efforts to control rodent infestation with trash storage modifications, continuous baiting and even inviting rat expert Dr. Robert Corrigan from New York, there has been little success. “It doesn’t seem to be working. It seems to be getting worse and worse,” Alderman Sullivan said.

Alderman Sullivan wants a comprehensive plan to address the rodent infestation. He’s asking that the “right person” be hired, who can find the source of the rats and put a stop to the problem plaguing the people of Somerville.


26 Responses to “‘Rodent Epidemic’ rallies aldermen to crackdown on infestation”

  1. PixiePocahontas says:

    Get rid of the rats who abandon their properties, absentee landlords are also to blame. So is the orange line MBTA and mystic river. There is a way to combat this problem but as usual you fail to admit the real sources. Making seem like its always the residents is no only inaccurate but veiled in a way which deflects from the real issues this administration feels to address.

    Of course the major source is construction due to ongoing work at assembly which in some spots has been left undisturbed for decades. Maybe they should be focusing on the source of entry instead of rentals in E.Somerville. That’s where they end up due to their upheaval from Assembly.

    I’ve seen rats in the tunnels of the T while standing at the platforms. I’ve also experienced this problem when construction of Red Line came to Davis and Alewife Stations, but majority were mice. Mom’s remedy was our cat.

    Advice to residents: Keep those trash barrel covers on tight, or put them under the enclosed deck and storage area.
    I have a feeling the 3:00 a.m. Inspector Clouseau is getting his camera ready. When you get those $50 fines, be sure to raise hell at city hall. Soon the bill will escalate to $80, and if you don’t go along, the next option is a non-refundable $125 court fee whether you win or lose.

    They must be looking to get rid of some of their employees once again. Why is THAT our problem.

    Make the developers pay for it, they can afford to.

  2. rats says:

    wow, a software program? are you going to throw the disks at the rats? I love blaming ‘problem properties’. certainly part of the problem, but why are you ignoring the construction issue mentioned here? Portapotties are a huge part of the problem. waste and water sitting for weeks? construction tearing up entire yards/foundations? c’mon, common sense. Much larger issue? Food Trucks, embraced by the cool element here, arrive, make money, leave, no resp. to the city at all. endless festivals with food trucks, does anyone make the connection? Food truck operators and Developers need to cover some costs here. They get to come in, build a giant blight on the neighborhood and walk away (back to Woburn/Reading, etc.) No rat worries for them. Then we wanna put the whole thing on some schmuck who’s struggling to pay taxes and keep up his property.

  3. A.Moore says:

    No, we are going to attract them to the hard drive and write them to death. Churches are another place. Some of them just dump the trash out back including baby diapers and whatever. Have seen this first hand. Like evrything else, this has to be helped by everyone or it won’t work.

  4. Matt says:

    on the side of technology – programs like what they are talking about actually work. Similar tech was used to reduce crime in many major cities – though this is a novel use of this type of surveillance software I do believe it can work, assuming that people report sightings and activity.

  5. Rat Pack says:

    This whole issue has become a joke. The BOA brings it up occasionally, the mayor ignores it so as not to scare away the ‘hipsters’, construction is everywhere and non-stop, and the residents take all the blame. Dog parks, whether the official or the unofficial ones, attract rats. They have been seen numerous times in playgrounds across the city. Let’s face it. The rats are there, and the problem is exacerbated by construction. You can cover your trash like it’s Fort Knox, but they can get into anything, including your house, garage, or cellar. Baiting the sewers and creating a fancy graph of where they have been reported is a waste of time. You need to bait a construction site BEFORE construction begins. Try using the bait that’s been used in NYC, which makes the rat infertile. And it must continue throughout the construction process and the site should be inspected daily. Have the developer put up an escrow fund to be used for exterminating the area once the rats have invaded the neighborhood. Putting it on the poor homeowner is disgraceful. This problem has been ignored too long and is now out of control and much more difficult to stop.

  6. Susan Bottari says:

    Why can’t the city distribute those black pest boxes like they do free compost bins !! and allowing live chickens in yards – Not to mention the overpopulation of dogs in the city who have owners that do not pick up their waste. Come one people

  7. A.Moore,

    It’s Assembly Row Construction which is causing the rats to scatter and yes, if they have a new place to call home. I’ve seen rats all the time by the river when we use to own a boat. No one from ISD does anything except fine people for not having their trash barrel covers and they come up to W. Somerville to do the same, when we don’t have rats. They need to get off their butts and demand that the same developers who are making millions on these new projects, pay for ways to remedy this problem. Articles which aim to distort the story, laying blame on current residents and business owners is only another tactic to push people out of neighborhoods. They are hoping to get the unanimous vote of those who will be brainwashed into believing it’s a residential problem when it’s not–just another strategy to making way for the bulldozer.

  8. A,Moore says:

    Speaking of Assembly, when they first started construction back when it was First National to make the mall the rodents were going accross McGrath. It was described like leaves blowing accross the highway in the Fall as there was so many of them. Then we started having big problems in East Somerville and WInter Hill. My friend who owned a hardware store could not keep anything in stock to fight them. As far as them getting into your home the big thing is to make sure it is sealed up well with the right type of products. Stuff they won’t eat through. We just keep our food waste inside and stuff that may smell we have a bag in the freezer so no food products are outside. This I do for hearing protection from my wife.

  9. ritepride says:

    “PixiePocahontas” is correct…the Big Dig excavations caused rampant rat flight into the neighborhoods. When they did all the construction in East Cambridge the same thing occurred. When they did major construction at Tufts there was an increase of mice in the neighborhoods, the rats remained on campus in Executive session.

  10. Shorty says:

    I really hope the city plans a MASSIVE EXTERMINATION of the hundreds (if not thousands) of rats which are living in the now vacant Waste Management building on Poplar Street before the city tears it down. Not taking the proper steps to eliminate the massive rat population in and around that building could be disastrous. The perfect storm of rats taking over East Somerville and Union Square.

  11. DisgustedTaxPayer says:

    Where is the Mayor on this issue? A no show.
    Rat Pack hit the nail right on the head yet I see no plan coming from the Mayor’s office or BOA to hold developers accountable, yet you can be assured the homeowner will be fined if they fail to put a lid on one of their trash containers.

  12. PixiePocahontas says:


    How many cases must we go over to realize the bigger issue before us? Lack of accountability, failure to take care of our basic needs as residents who are continually faced with escalating costs. Bottom line: we pay, they spend selectively, fail to correct the problems regarding sanitation, rat control, serious allegations involving town officials regarding real estate transactions and those doing business involving city matters like zoning, not abiding by laws which mandate taking care of the disabled living in our community who are denied access to city owned buildings. Just for starters.

  13. amen says:

    thanks for reminding me of two other issues: dogs and chickens. we actually have approved raising farm animals here. Chicken waste sitting around? anyone think that may attract rats? unbelievable.
    dogs parks–absolutely correct. bags of dog poop sitting at least overnight, most likely more, perfect recipe.
    destroying the City Dump (scheduled for August!) will send rats literally through the roof. and when Green Line building begins, hold on to your hat. The city has to get in front of this problem and be ready or we are all in trouble.

  14. Barry the Pig says:

    Of course it’s thousands!!! Do you know how fast these critters mate?

  15. Leah says:

    Why not allow residents to use garbage cans that can’t be gnawed through? If the city switched to large totes like the new recycling bins, trash would be much more secure. With the current limit on garbage can weight, you can’t actually purchase cans that will keep wildlife out.

  16. ritepride says:

    “PixieP” The only way things will change is for everyone who is aware of the stuff going on in this city then forewards it to the Justice Dept. in Washington D.C. The State A.G., Martha C. just goes along with the coverups (Cebter on Aging, Traffic/Parking, etc.) by just agreeing with joe’s in house (wink-wink) investigations which just covered things up and never resolved anthing.

  17. A.Moore says:

    Amen, maybe one day rodents will be part of the farm animal project. This happened in another city but this made me think of it. Will try to keep it short. An elderly lady who had no money had a house in disrepair. The pidgeons had made so much stuff one of the ceilings caved in. My friend went over and blocked up all the entrances to the house so they couldn’t get back in. The neighbors called in and complained that he blocked off the natural habitat of the pidgeons and the city shut the job down. And now you can see what I am thinking I am sure.

  18. PixiePocahontas says:

    rite pride,

    Job security for many, some will leave when they’ve had enough.

    Have seen this all before in a different part of the state.
    Newspaper lost its sponsors when they turned up the heat, good journalists and bloggers lost their jobs and worse. Better to let investigative journalists do the work. I’m sure the buzzing has come to a deafening screech. Of course that is just my opinion, but the mood is sober while others keep dancing in the streets. You’re a good soul, remember, watch out for number one.

  19. Rat Pack says:

    It’s clear to anyone who is paying attention that the city will not take responsibility for rats, nor will they force developers to take responsbility. When the massive Maxwell Green development construction began, people in the adjoining neighborhood suddenly had problems with rats. They got together and complained to the city, who determined that it was not the fault of the developer. Yep, it is your fault for not holding off the hordes that have been released by their greed.

  20. Barry the Pig says:

    They should allow cyanide-laced garbage bags!

  21. Rat Pack,

    I attended a meeting to decide over the PHCS a couple of years back, we got the same response when we questioned the proposal of 115 condo units and other projects which would have impacted our streets and neighborhoods. All along, they planned to had it over to Tufts. Our complaint was the obvious increase in traffic and parking–we asked if the developers would pay for new traffic devices and the condo owners parking, so as not to over-crowd our already burdened streets.

    The answer from the city planner–“We will not make any demands from developers”. No, but you wonder what other demands are being made on the developers which will never see the light of day, or benefit the local taxpayer. I’m sure they are taking care of the chosen few–the rest of us are on our own.

    Somerville Files Parts 1-4 Dig Boston. Google it. You won’t be surprised.

    Joe Lynch of SCAT just interviewed a returning journalist who will be writing stories on Somerville for the Boston Globe. One comment mentioned, “rumors of investigations and developers”, on Som.Patch. You should check it out. The city is also considering abolishing comments on-line, so we can’t talk about the real truth behind the deception and confusion “smoke and mirrors”, another glitz and glory facade. That’s why there are so many festivals–keep the people distracted and drunk, as they do at the casinos. Before long, they won’t even notice what’s going on in backroom deals. And the only reason they won’t have a casino is because they won’t benefit, it’s a different player in town. Oh, what a tangled web indeed…..

  22. A.Moore says:

    Supposingly they have rodent proof trash bags. Don’t know anyone using them or have heard if they work or not.

  23. Developers says:

    it’s amazing to me they decided MaxGreen wasn’t responsible for rate, then again, it’s not amazing, and that’s sad. I’m no genius, but suppose you bait and poison the whole site before you tear it down? you get a majority of the little buggers and they get carried out with the trash. couldn’t cost that much.

  24. rat bags says:

    there are mint-infused trash bags that will deter rodents of all kinds. haven’t tried them out, but mint is known to be offensive to rats/mice. they’re for sale, I think at home depot, not sure.

  25. A.Moore says:

    Developers, it may not costs much but it eats into their profits. And who knows who gets to share in those so we need to keep those profits up. Plus you want to construct some thing using plain old common sense. We can’t have that here.

  26. Rat Pack says:

    I was involved in public meetings for a development project on a long-abandoned building. The neighbors fought for and received baiting prior to any work beginning. The developer appeared to have complied, it’s hard to know how much difference it made. I don’t think it would have happened, though, were it not for very involved abutters who fought hard for it.

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