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Rodent boom alarms officials

A Revere resident sent this photo of a dead rat to City Hall. A Revere resident sent this photo of a dead rat to City Hall.
By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / September 6, 2012
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In a renewed attempt to combat the city’s growing rat problem, Revere Mayor Daniel Rizzo has proposed new rules requiring contractors to keep work sites free of rodents and businesses to maintain their dumpsters.

The rules are included in a proposed city ordinance submitted to the City Council on Aug. 27. The council scheduled a hearing on Sept. 24 to allow the public to comment on the plan.

The restrictions come after an ordinance adopted by the council last year established tighter rules on residential trash collection, also aimed at curbing the rat problem. Those rules, which took effect in January, include requirements that all curbside trash be placed in barrels or if loose, in certified rodent-resistant bags.

“It’s a huge problem,” Nicholas Catinazzo, the city’s director of municipal inspections, said of the rats. “Chelsea is having a problem, Saugus is having a problem, Lynn is having a problem.”

Catinazzo said the rat problem used to be sporadic in Revere, but for reasons that are not entirely clear — the unseasonably warm winter, recent sewer construction, and the city’s proximity to the ocean and marshes are possible contributors — “now it’s all over.”

Some of the recent construction work in the city includes an ongoing sewer repair project that is being carried out by city contractors and the installation of new gas lines by National Grid, according to Catinazzo.

“The mayor is very aggressive on this and we are trying to take steps in the right direction,” he said.

The new residential trash rules have had some success, Catinazzo said, noting that about 75 percent of households are now complying with the regulations, up from about 25 percent when they first took effect. But he said additional rules are needed to curtail rodent activity relating to commercial dumpsters and construction.

The ordinance would bar building or street opening permits for any construction that involves disturbing the ground until the applicant offers evidence the site has been treated for or is free from rodents and insects, at the discretion of the health agent. The applicant also would be responsible for corrective measures if the work results in infestation to abutters, with violators subject to a $300 per day fine.

All dumpsters as of next January would have to be permitted through a $50 annual fee, and users would have to clean and disinfect them three times a year. In addition, maintenance plans must be submitted and records kept to show upkeep. Violators would be subject to fines of $50 per day. Revenues from the fee would go into a city account to be used for rodent control.

The proposed ordinance also refines an existing requirement that contractors must carry out extermination of rats 10 days before and 10 days after construction projects, at the discretion of the health agent. Violators would be subject to a $250-per-day fine.

In developing the new rules, the city hosted a meeting of inspectional services officials from Boston, Chelsea, and Lynn to discuss their common rat problems and strategies. The guidance provided by Boston, which has an active antirodent program, was particularly helpful, Catinazzo said.

Miles Lang-Kennedy, Rizzo’s chief of staff, said that the prevalence of rats is one of the top quality of life concerns in the city now, noting that the mayor’s office and the Inspectional Services office each receive about 20 complaints a day, and that there is frequent discussion of the problem on the city’s social media sites.

Lang-Kennedy said that based on information the city received from Boston officials, the Norway rat appears to be the type proliferating in the area. “It can breed, in one year, seven times . . . and every time it has a litter of 12 rats,” he said.

“We wish we could say it’s just on the beach, or just in Ward 6, but it’s everywhere,” he said of the problem, noting that he saw two rats while he was driving to work the other day. “So there has to be a very aggressive approach taken.”

Ward 2 Councilor Ira Novoselsky agreed the problem needs to be addressed.

“I’ve seen pictures. I’ve seen the burrows, I’ve gotten complaints from neighbors,” said Novoselsky, who thinks at least part of the rat activity is the result of construction work.

“Rats live underground and when they hear banging, they scatter,” he said. “It’s like all the animals that are coming into the suburbs because developments are taking away their woods. They have to find new places to go, new places to feed.”

Novoselsky said he supports the proposed new ordinance with some small revisions, and believes it will win support from the council.

Ward 6 Councilor Charlie Patch, who sponsored the trash ordinance adopted last year, also supports the new plan.

“I had to hire an exterminator to bait my property, so I know as much as anybody there really is a problem,” he said. Apart from some residents not complying with the rules, he agreed the rats in his ward are being stirred up by construction work.

“Something has to be done,” Patch said.

John Laidler can be reached at

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