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East Watertown rat infestation main topic of public meeting tonight

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  September 20, 2012 12:55 PM

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Watertown health officials will hold a public information meeting tonight about the rat infestation in East Watertown, specifically around Coolidge Hill Road.

The Town of Watertown will hold a public information meeting tonight about a recent rat infestation in the eastern part of town.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, located at 149 Main Street.

Kristel Bennett, Watertown's chief environmental health officer, said the town has received more phone calls about rat sightings this year than in previous years.

Bennett said the calls started this May, and have increased over the summer - especially in the neighborhood of Coolidge Hill Road, Crawford Street, and Kondazian Street.

Bennett said the town has been working with Waltham Services, a pest control company, on locating the cause for the rat infestation - an endeavor that is leaving both health officials and pest control workers scratching their heads.

"Rats are wildlife just like squirrels and raccoons, but they've been increasing in population for reasons unknown to us," Bennett said after Wednesday's Board of Health meeting.

Bennett said the town's hands are mostly tied when it comes to treating rat sightings, most of which occur outdoors, because the town cannot traverse private residential property without permission from homeowners.

Many homeowners are uncomfortable allowing health officials on their property to search for rodents, because if any rodent signs are found, the town requires the property owner to take care of the infestation on his or her own dime, Bennett said.

However, town officials distributed fliers to the affected neighborhood in May, giving pointers on how to spot rat burrows and rodent-proof their homes.

The flier states that residents should clean up after any food spills and lock up food in thick containers with tight-fitting lids, and store garbage with tight-fitting lids so rodents cannot find their way in. The town also implores residents to keep grass and vegetation cut short and well-trimmed to avoid possible rat nesting.

The flier also says residents should seal up any holes in the home, as mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a nickel, and rats through a hole the size of a half-dollar.

If a resident finds a burrow on their property, the town recommends contacting a licensed pest control company to treat the hole.

The town also warns that there are 35 diseases that can be traced back to rodents, and recommends humans to keep away from all rodents, as well the droppings and urine they leave behind.

For more information, call the health department at 617-972-6446.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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