The War on Rats – Part I: ANC Task Force Launches First Strike
By Larry Janezich
On Tuesday, March 21, ANC6B’s Outreach and Constituent Services Task Force held a SRO community meeting in Hill Center to discuss the issue of rats on Capitol Hill and to hear from Department of Health (DOH) Rodent Control Chief, Gerard Brown. A report on that meeting will be posted in Part II of CHC’s three part series on ANC6B’s on-going war on rats.
Two follow up actions have occurred as the result of the meeting. The first occurred last Friday, when the Department of Health’s Rodent Control Task Force was deployed to attack rat harborage and trash issues on the 300 and 600 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and adjacent streets – identified as two of the most serious infestations. The Rodent Control Task Force has identified some 300 rat burrows in and around Capitol Hill’s restaurant clusters – the areas which draw and sustain the city’s rat population. Burrows in the 300 and 600 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue were treated with rodenticide powder – shot into the burrows – which accumulates on the animals’ fur and is ingested as the rodent grooms itself.
ANC6B Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk accompanied the abatement team and told CHC that although restaurants are the main attractant; residents have to do their part as well, citing birdfeeders in yards and dog poop in tree boxes, both powerful attractants for rats. The DOH Rodent Control Team targets hotspots throughout the city every Friday.
The second initiative which resulted from the Tuesday meeting was a letter from the ANC Task Force co-chairs – Samolyk and Diane Hoskins – to DOH chief, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, and copied to DOH Vector Control Chief Gerard Brown and the offices of CM Charles Allen and Mayor Bowser. The letter asks DOH for support for a citizen-assisted “Clean Trash” Enforcement Pilot Program on Capitol Hill.
The proposed program would address the personnel shortage currently hampering the operation of the Department of Health – Rodent Control currently has only four inspectors for the entire city, and 5 – 7 employees involved in abatement.
The pilot program would create a mechanism which would allow residents to report problems to the DOH which would then be able to act without sending an inspector. The ANC commissioners believe such a program will stimulate citizen interest in the problem and create a supplemental level of enforcement for the DOH.
A copy of the letter appears below.
Forthcoming. Part II in CHC’s three part series will report on the ANC’s Task Force Community Meeting to discuss rats. Part III will take a broader look at ANC6B’s War on Rats.
March 28, 2017
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt
Director, District of Columbia Department of Health
899 North Capitol St NE
Washington, DC 20002
RE: Establishing a Citizen-assisted “Clean Trash” Enforcement Pilot on Capitol Hill
Dear Dr. Nesbitt:
Last week, ANC 6B Outreach and Constituent Services Taskforce, hosted more than 50 residents from Capitol Hill to discuss widespread and deeply held concerns with rat activity in our Capitol Hill neighborhood. While we are the co-chairs of this Taskforce, we write this letter on behalf of our single member districts and not on behalf of Commission to expedite sending this letter.
To state a summary of the meeting plainly, the rats are out of control. Residents all over Capitol Hill waited patiently to share their concerns for over two hours. The dramatic and unwelcomed uptick is intensely acute in parts of our neighborhood where residential areas are right next door to commercial and restaurant areas. We attribute chronic poorly managed trash and grease handling as a primary contributor to our undesirable rat populations.
During the meeting, we identified two priority areas for closer neighborhood coordination and partnership with the Department of Health:
Active DOH treatment of all active rat burrows with neighborhood assistance in identifying troublesome areas
Aggressive DOH enforcement of unsanitary trash and grease management practices with neighborhood assistance in identifying problem areas
We understand that fixing this problem will not happen overnight but need your assistance, especially in these two areas.
We believe that establishing a citizen-assisted “clean trash” enforcement pilot program in Capitol Hill would allow for a major step forward to strongly discouraging unsanitary trash and grease storage. While current DOH enforcement resources are extremely limited, neighbors are eager to assist DOH in making enforcement progress. We enthusiastically support this pilot program concept and welcome the opportunity to work alongside you and your staff to make this a reality.
We believe this pilot, when realized, would leverage citizen interest in cleaning up our neighborhood while expanding the capacity of your enforcement officers despite limited resources. We look forward to discussing further and making “clean trash” the rule as opposed to the exception.
Diane Hoskins Jennifer Samolyk
Commissioner ANC 6B-02 Commissioner ANC 6B-01