www.baltimoresun.com/explore/baltimorecounty/news/ph-ca-rat-infestation-20130212,0,2090304.story

baltimoresun.com

Rats concern residents in Catonsville neighborhood

By Julie Baughman, jbaughman@tribune.com

2:19 PM EST, February 12, 2013

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Paradise residents have been fighting an ongoing battle — an ongoing battle with rats.

"We are experiencing a rat infestation," said Paradise Community Association President Stuart Merenbloom.

"We have witnessed with our own eyes; we have killed the rats with our own hands; we — we meaning me — we have filled numerous holes in our backyard; we have paid Terminix, religiously, $300 every year to come out and do their baiting; we have switched to metal trash cans; we, as a community association, have had numerous discussions," he said.

The infestation in the southwest portion of Baltimore County is not limited to the Catonsville community east of the Baltimore Beltway exit at Frederick Road either.

This week, for example, residences in the Lansdowne community of Riverview are in Baltimore County's Rat Attack program, a countywide program designed to treat and eliminate rat infestations which has treated more than 2,100 county residences since it began last April.

Merenbloom said members of the Paradise Community Association are taking measures to make county officials aware of their rat problems so that the area can be considered for the Rat Attack program.

First though, Merenbloom wants to have county Code Enforcement inspectors come out and perform "ticket sweeps" in which officials would inspect residences and issue citations that, if not rectified in the seven to 14 day period allotted by the county, would result in monetary fines.

Violations can range from having trash or junk in the front yard to not properly storing and getting rid of trash in metal containers with lids.

Pet waste that owners do not clean up promptly and trash that is not properly stored are among the biggest causes of rat infestation, said Lionel van Dommelen, chief of county Code Enforcement.

"The population of rats will grow or shrink in direct proportion to food supply," van Dommelen said.

"If folks are not cleaning these things up and storing their trash properly, then the population grows," he said.

A single breeding pair of rats can, under ideal circumstances, produce as many as 80 offspring in one year, according to a county news release.

Merenbloom said trash storage is a big problem in his area.

Residents who put their trash out in plastic bags that are easily ripped open or flimsy trash cans that rats can chew through are providing a suitable environment in which rats can flourish, he said.

The county needs a letter of intent from a community organization in order to begin any type of sweep, Merenbloom said.

He said the Paradise Community Association will meet Monday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m., at the Paradise Assisted Living Home, to determine whether or not to send one.

Code Enforcement Officer Phillip Mills, whose coverage area includes Catonsville, said he has visited the Paradise community on numerous occasions to work with residents about rats and other code enforcement issues.

"Every time I go out and speak to the constituents ... they often voice concerns about the rat problem," Mills said.

He said that though concerns are voiced at meetings, he doesn't receive many complaints on a regular basis. That lack of input prevents the county from classifying Paradise as an area with a true infestation and therefore from getting more involved.

Mills does what he calls "the code enforcement challenge" with residents in Paradise. He asks them to call in and report any, and every, violation they see when they notice it, rather than letting it go until a more serious situation develops.

"The only way we're going to improve your area is if you let me know," Mills said.

The No. 1 way residents can prevent rats is, "always storing trash in a can with a tight fitting lid," Mills said.

Mills also gave a lot of information to residents about proper trash storage. He said many people complain about rats chewing through plastic trash cans or lids blowing down the street after trash is picked up therefore allowing rats more access to food.

However, Mills said that purchasing a metal trash can or tying the trash can lid to a fence can prevent chewing or loss of a trash-can lid and subsequently prevent rats.

"They don't want to invest in another trash can, and they don't think about simple solutions like tying the lid to the fence," Mills said.

Merenbloom said that resident apathy in regards to trash storage is the biggest issue for Paradise.

"To me, that is the zenith of neighbors not giving a 'blank blank' about their fellow man," Merenbloom said.

"If somebody doesn't care enough to clean up their yard or do whatever it takes, I hope ... that we do vote to get the county to come in," he said.

"And my thinking is, a warning and or citation from Phil Mills is going to go a lot longer and a lot stronger than a politically correct worded note from me."