Somerville Officials Once Again Declare ‘War on Rats’

City residents are getting rodent-proof trash cans to keep the rascals at bay.

The rat problem in Somerville has been bad for years, and officials have all but exhausted their efforts trying to combat the scourge of rodent infestations in specific neighborhoods around the city.

In their latest attempt to fight back against the increasingly inconvenient issue of rats breeding and lingering around due to exposed man-made debris, Somerville leaders announced Thursday that they’re rolling out new impenetrable trash carts designed specifically to keep rodents from living off of people’s trash.

“We run into issues now where households have smaller trash cans that overflow, so the majority of trash is uncovered on pickup day and more likely to be stored uncovered during the week,” said Goran Smiljic, Somerville’s director of inspectional services.

But the new carts, Smiljic said, not only make it more difficult for rodents to chew through and gain access to trash, they also provide extra room so the chances of discarded items spilling over onto the streets is less likely. “This should reduce rodent access to household garbage as a food source, and removing food sources is critical in controlling the rodent population,” Smiljic said.

According to officials, residents in Somerville toss out roughly 33 gallons worth of trash each week. The new, specialized trash containers will hold 64-gallons, however, giving people nearly twice as much room. The receptacles came at no cost to the city, and are easier to wheel around for residents and more manageable for trash collectors picking them up.

The carts will be delivered to residents beginning in June, and come with specific instructions on how to use them so that the city can advance in the ongoing battle against the rodent mobs. Over the next few months, officials will monitor the use of the sturdier trash receptacles, and make changes based on input and data from residents. “The city and the Board of Aldermen are committed both to protecting our environment and to controlling the rodent population, and with this program we are asking residents to join in both of these efforts,” said Mayor Joe Curtatone, in an effort to rally the troops.

Somerville has had a relatively aggressive rodent problem since 2009, and in November of last year they officially declared “war” by implementing new strategies to keep the rats at bay through the Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program.

In March, Alderman even considered testing out a “rat sterilization” initiative to keep the animals from reproducing at rapid rates. That solution is still under consideration. So for now, officials think keeping a lid on their food access is probably the best way to approach the uphill battle.

Somerville isn’t alone when it comes to pesky rodents. While they are more frequently bringing the issue into the public eye, officials said the city rodent data trends are almost exactly in line with nearby cities like Boston, and others across the northeast. “What makes Somerville stand out is that while every city has rodents, Somerville tracks rodent data and has a rodent plan. We are aggressively, and openly, working to both reduce rodent activity here as well as set the standard for other cities struggling with the same issue,” a spokesperson said.