City turns tail on plan to poison rats
After initial approval, City Council backs off on proposal to control rodents at transfer station with pesticides
PAWTUCKET – The City Council on Wednesday unanimously denied a request for the city to assume liability for the application of pesticides on rat burrows at the Grotto Avenue transfer station, with councilors arguing that the most effective solution to the rat problem at the transfer station would be for the operators to clean up any lingering trash.
By denying Waste Connections US Inc.’s request for the city to accept liability, the council effectively told WCI it had no interest in the application of pesticides Rozol and Ditrac to rat burrows.
The council last month approved WCI’s rodent control plan for the transfer station, which included the application of Rozol and Ditrac to be applied directly into rat burrows on site. A city inspector had recommended WCI consider applying the two tracking powder pesticides directly into any rat burrows at the Grotto Avenue station.
WCI officials, however, said they would only consider this option if the city were to “accept liability for this type of application,” according to an Aug. 31 letter from WCI, because the use of such products requires a restricted use license “because the application poses hazards when used.”
While City Solicitor Frank J. Milos Jr. in a letter last Thursday told members of the council that it would be appropriate for the city to both hold harmless and indemnify WCI in their plan to use pesticides on rat burrows at the transfer station, the councilors ultimately decided on Wednesday that they would not accept liability and would not endorse the use of such pesticides.
District 6 City Councilor Timothy P. Rudd Jr. said “I have a real problem sitting here thinking that I would support chemicals being put into the ground.”
“I’m very concerned of the fact that they’ve stated that these chemicals are stronger than the chemicals that are currently out there and there have already been issues in the community with pets that have potentially digested the current chemicals,” Rudd said.
Local resident Lynn Farinelli, prior to the council’s vote, told the panel that one of her dogs recently died and another pet dog is still sick after coming into contact with a rat that was found dead in their yard.
“We now have to tolerate more poison in our area because this company is feeding the rats all weekend. Friday night, my dogs got a rat that they found dead in our yard. By Saturday morning, my older dog was very sick…” Farinelli said. “Would it or could it be that this was just a coincidence, that my dog got sick after coming in contact with a poisoned rat?”
“These rats are taking the bait and dumping it all around our area, and I’m going to listen tonight about more poison to fix the problem that is being caused by the negligence at that station,” she said. “Would you be OK with this in your backyard?”
Rudd said he would not be in favor of willingly putting “more toxins into our soil in an area that’s wetlands, where it could go into our waterways … You have children walking the area, residents with their pets walking the area. I’m extremely hesitant and actually I’m at that point where I cannot support this initiative. I understand we need to get control of the rat problem, but I think it’s pretty clear, in order to get rid of the rat problem, you need to get rid of the food source. The food source is there in those open bays.”
“I don’t think by pouring more poison into the ground is going to really fix the situation. It may kill off some of these rats, but the food source is still there…” he added. “Until we can get them to actually clean up the trash every night, I don’t think we should
be doing anything more as far as the baiting.”
District 5 Councilor Meghan E. Kallman said she was less concerned about the city assuming liability and more focused on the “longterm consequences of this kind of stuff.”
“This is our water source, it goes into the ground. This is a residential neighborhood, kids play in puddles, that’s what they do, and I’m not comfortable with more really toxic stuff in residential neighborhoods,” Kallman said.
District 4 Councilor John J. Barry III said the rat problem isn’t specific to the transfer station and the area around it, but is rather becoming “a pandemic around town, that there are rats in every neighborhood now.”
“I’ve got rats all over the Fourth District, I’ve been complaining about it regularly…” Barry said. “I think most of us have felt that those bait boxes, we’ve been told that they’re pet friendly and that they’re safe. I’ve had four dead rats in three weeks in the yard because they’ve increased the number of bait boxes, but they’re all over.”
“It’s not just at the transfer station. We’ve got an issue in the city with rats,” Barry later said. “We’ve got an issue in the city with people not properly putting out their garbage and keeping it in barrels. We need to address it, it’s getting much worse, rather than better.”
The call for rodent control has been an ongoing discussion at council meetings since the end of August, when the panel unanimously passed an amended resolution extending through February the operating lease for the Grotto Avenue transfer station with WCI. The council’s approval was also contingent on a “rodent improvement plan” with updates to the council.
Also on Wednesday night, Rudd requested that a communication be sent to the administration, requesting the breakdown per household of how much it would cost the city to haul trash to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery landfill in Johnston.
“We’ve had meetings where numbers have been thrown at us, but I’d like to see the breakdown per household on that cost per year on the tax rate, that way we can give the people of the city a better idea of how much it actually would be at the end of the year on their tax rate,” Rudd said.