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City of Cambridge Searches for Rat Liaison to Combat Rodent Scourge

Cambridge Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon said the city will be rolling out special trash cans to help combat the rising rodent population in the city.
Cambridge Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon said the city will be rolling out special trash cans to help combat the rising rodent population in the city. By Ryan D. Nguyen
By Sarah Girma and Jennifer L. Powley, Crimson Staff Writers

The Cambridge City Council is seeking a rodent control liaison to spearhead a response to the rising rodent population in the city.

At a Sept. 13 meeting, the council unanimously passed a policy order outlining a report on rodent control efforts since last February and establishing a liaison position.

The future liaison will “serve as the point of contact for rat and rodent complaints and information” for both the public and the City Council, per the September policy order.

The liaison will not be working alone. The City Manager’s office and Public Health, Inspectional Services, and Public Works departments hold regular Rodent Task Force meetings to discuss the ongoing problem, according to the report transmitted from City Manager Louis A. DePasquale’s office to the council. Currently, Dan Riviello, Cambridge’s Community Relations Manager, oversees the task force meetings and coordination of the city’s response to the rodent problem.

“The City has been committed to confronting the problem of rodents in a variety of ways — by addressing issues on public property, helping residents take issues on private property, working to control rodents during construction projects, enforcing sanitary codes and ordinances, and educating the public,” DePasquale wrote in a Nov. 22 communication to the council.

Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon attributed the high rat population to the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing construction in the area.

“I think right before Covid, it was becoming a serious issue, and for some reason, Covid really seemed to exacerbate the problem,” Mallon said in an interview. “There’s a lot of construction projects that are going on in the city and that always sort of stimulates the rat and rodent activity that you tend to see.”

The city has also established a rodent control program that will provide private property owners with a free rodent inspection, which owners can apply for online. The city’s Inspectional Services staff and a pest control contractor will assess the property’s rodent activity, then give feedback on how to prevent further rodent activity.

Mallon discussed other strategies the city is using to combat the rodent problem in Cambridge, such as “rat-proof” trash cans with thicker plastic and compost programs.

“We started a curbside compost program, which actually really helps to decrease the amount of food that rats have access to in the trash cans,” Mallon said. “We will be rolling out special trash cans for each and every resident that will be rat-proof.”

Councilor Quinton Y. Zondervan acknowledged the challenges some Cambridge residents have experienced with rodent-related communication to the city. He said that an official rat liaison would help bridge the gap between Cantabrigians and the city.

“In some cases, it is true that people have some difficulty with interacting with the city because they don’t always know who to call or who they should talk to, and so it can be helpful to have one person that is in charge of that problem,” he said.

Zondervan also noted it is important for Cantabrigians to “do their part” to help alleviate the city rodent problem. Similarly, Mallon called for collaboration among neighbors to decrease the rodent population.

“I can’t solve the rodent problem on my part of the street without getting my neighbors involved,” Mallon said.

—Staff writer Sarah Girma can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SarahGirma_.

—Staff writer Jennifer L. Powley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JenniferlPowley.

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