The War on Rats – an Update
by Larry Janezich
On Tuesday night, ANC6B heard an update on the Rat Wars from Gerard Brown, who heads up the DC Department of Health’s rat control division. Judging by the praise he received, Brown is pretty high on the list of the ANC’s favorite DC employees. A lot of that has to do with Brown’s dedication to his job, and a lot has to do with his charm and straight talk.
What’s new is that his office has purchased a carbon monoxide machine to inject the gas into rat burrows which quickly kills rats underground. This promises to be more effective than putting dry ice in burrows to achieve the same purpose. Brown said his division has partnered with the Downtown Bid which pinpointed rat activity in specific tree boxes. After treatment with carbon monoxide, the BID installs wire mesh below ground in the tree boxes to prevent rats from coming back. Brown says he is reaching out to the Capitol Hill BID to enlist their services for a similar effort here on Capitol Hill.
Brown also said that the pilot program to sterilize rats which started last May has been extended. He has had calls from all over the country with questions about the method’s effectiveness, but it’s too early to say. Rats have been consuming the liquid which is dispensed in boxes around the city – one of which has been placed in the alley behind the restaurants across from Eastern Market. Cameras will be installed which will allow the Health Department to judge the effectiveness by observing the number of juvenile rats.
In other news, the staff of his division has been increased from 12 to 16 and reorganized to increase efficiency. In addition, his office is working to reduce the time lag between a complaint and a response to three days.
Brown said that weapons in the rat control arsenal currently include carbon monoxide, rodenticide, enforcement of trash violations, and partnership with residents. He urged residents to report rat and trash issues. Rodent control staff treats rat issues on public property but will treat the exterior of private property if residents request a rodent inspection and treatment. Here’s the link https://311.dc.gov/citizen/home
For other complaints about rodents or trash violations, residents should contact the Mayor’s Hotline at 311. Request the report be sent to DC Health, and the Health Department will receive the complaints electronically.