Times Colonist

Rats linger at closed warehouse

- CINDY E. HARNETT

An Esquimalt warehouse that supplies several local grocery stores remains closed due to a rat infestatio­n as rodent-control experts wage war on the persistent pests.

Vancouver Island Health Authority inspectors shut down Wilson Foods Limited on May 22 after it found evidence that a rat infestatio­n — feces, gnawed boxes and bags — had become worse after a warning to clean up six weeks prior.

VIHA insists the food from the warehouse that made it onto grocery store shelves weeks ago was not contaminat­ed. Meanwhile, owner Reg Owens waits impatientl­y for the last rat to be trapped.

“Every day I expect we’ll open but we’ll have to wait,” Owens said. The cleanup is complete, but smoking out the last rat is proving more difficult than anticipate­d.

“There’s one here and one there, then it’s good for a day and then we see another,” Owens said, obviously frustrated. He’s keeping most of his workers busy with other duties, he said.

Owens couldn’t specify a dollar amount of his losses, but said “of course” he’s losing money each day the facility is closed and is worried about losing longtime customers if the closure drags on. But Owens doesn’t anticipate the warehouse will have to shut down permanentl­y, “not if we can get open in half-decent time.”

“There’s a good chance we’ll be done soon, but it’s hard,” Owens said.

VIHA will do a thorough inspection before the warehouse can be re-opened, said VIHA spokeswoma­n Shannon Marshall yesterday.

Robert Jay, spokesman for Fairway Market stores, customers of Wilson Foods Limited, said the grocery chain will do its own independen­t inspection of the Esquimalt warehouse before it returns as a customer.

“We’re not going to go back right away,” Jay said. “We have to make sure we’re satisfied with what they’ve done so it doesn’t happen again.”

In the meantime the stores on Vancouver Island have been getting as many of the same products as they can from BuyLow Foods in Vancouver.

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