Boston City Council President Ed Flynn is pushing for a creation of a municipal pest control office to tackle the city’s rat problem.
In his proposal for a hearing on the matter, Flynn noted that the job of pest control is currently divided among the Inspectional Services Department, Public Works, and the Water and Sewer Commission. He wants additional resources to curtail rodents in the city, with one designated point person in the “city that has overall responsibility and authority on all matters relating to rats and pest control.”
“We have to step up our efforts to address this serious public health and quality of life issue,” Flynn said in a statement.
Flynn’s proposal comes after New York City appointed its first New York City director of rodent mitigation, colloquially known as the “rat czar” to coordinate “across government agencies, the private sector, and community organizations to strategize on pest control and reduce the rat population.” Kathleen Corradi will earn an annual salary of $155,000 to focus on ways “to cut off rats’ food sources, as well as through testing and deploying new technologies to detect and exterminate rat populations.”
Flynn said he is following New York’s rodent control plans closely. He thought having “a dedicated position and office on pest control would allow us to better address the issue, allow for a more streamlined and coordinated process in reducing pests, and come up with more innovative ways in prevent pest infestations.”
NPR recently reported that rat complaints in New York have increased over the past two years, and Flynn said that Boston is seeing a similar trend, asserting that the COVID-19 pandemic meant that food sources moved from restaurants directly to residents’ homes, leading to an increase in reports of rodent activity and sightings in the city.
Boston’s 311 database, a system that documents non-emergency requests for service, on Tuesday indicated that there were nearly 1,700 open reports of rat complaints in the city. Just Tuesday morning, someone complained that rats were building a nest under an entry-step at 664 Columbia Road in Dorchester, mere feet away from the sidewalk. Elsewhere in Dorchester, a resident asked the city to check local rat burrows after seeing five of the rodents emerge from the trash at 209 Harvard St.
Across town, in East Boston, a complaint asserted that 60 Everett St. was the site of “massive rodent issues during the day and at night.”
In 2021, the city’s inspectional services department received 4,383 pest complaints, a number that increased last year to 5,095.
For bad infestations, inspectors typically conduct a walkthrough with property owners to identify problems and identify food and water sources, burrows, and improper trash storage. The inspector then offers guidance about how to address the problem, which could include hiring a pest control company. According to a spokeswoman for inspectional services, the department tries to reduce its use of pesticides, but inspectors will use such chemicals in certain circumstances to deal with infestations of rats and mice.
In recent years, ISD started using dry ice to curb the rodent population. As the solid form of carbon dioxide, dry ice suffocates rats as it melts. It is used in laboratories to euthanize mice and rats.
“Inspectors found the effectiveness to be remarkable and the danger to humans [and] residential pests is lowered considerably and the cost is significantly lower,” the ISD spokeswoman said in the e-mail.
Flynn’s hearing order is on the agenda for this week’s council meeting.