Thursday, May 27, 2004

Rats emerging from sewers rattle Delhi

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jan Kathman of Delhi Township holds a flier that she is handing out to her neighbors on Gilcrest Lane to warn them about the rats coming out of sewer lines around their homes.
Cincinnati Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN
DELHI TOWNSHIP - Health officials and the people who live on Gilcrest Lane agree on one thing: Rats are again popping up in the neighborhood.

Within the past week, two dead rats have been spotted on sidewalks and at least 10 homes have signs of infestation - burrows near concrete slabs, foundation walls or retaining walls on driveways.

But neighbors are at odds with the Hamilton County General Health District over the source of the recurring problem. Each spring, rats emerge from storm drains on the street. The drains are connected to sewer lines that run underneath this quiet subdivision of ranch houses and Cape Cods.

The annual invasion, which began 10 years ago, varies in intensity from year to year, residents say.

Health officials, however, suspect the problem may be linked to neighbors who lure the rats by leaving lids off garbage cans. Rats also seem attracted to one man's backyard bird feeders.

"Everyone is frustrated," said 45-year-old Jan Kathman.

Two years ago, a rat bit Kathman's left foot while she was sitting on her deck. She did not get rabies, but had to get six inoculations as a precaution.

"We want to get to the point where we never have to see another rat again," Kathman said. "Why should we have to live like this?"

Health officials have responded, but not in a way that neighbors would like.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram sent an inspector to the neighborhood this week.

Beginning on Friday, the Metropolitan Sewer District will bait the sewer line, Ingram said. Rats eat the poisoned bait and die.

Rats can carry as many as 35 diseases. To date, no one in Delhi Township has been reported ill. Without blaming anyone for the rodent problem, Ingram said one neighbor - the man with the backyard bird feeders - has "contributed to it."

That man is Dick Reuss, a 63-year-old retiree. Each winter, Reuss said, he erects two birdfeeders in his back yard but takes them down at the start of spring.

There's no sign of rat infestation on Reuss' property, and he resents any suggestion that he is to blame for luring the rats out of the sewers.

Health officials will monitor the neighborhood for the next several weeks to make sure that no more rats are spotted - a sign that the baiting program is working. In addition, three or four follow-up visits will be made this year, Ingram said.

But that's not enough to satisfy Kathman's other neighbors. They want MSD to bait the sewers each spring before the rats emerge. Annual baiting would be a pro-active strategy, Kathman said.

Ingram said annual baiting could be done, but only if warranted. Residents have to do their part by removing anything that could attract rats.

"Our neighborhood is not dirty," said 32-year Cammi Campagna. "It's so obvious that rats are living in the sewers. I see them coming in and out of the storm drains, yet no one in authority wants to take responsibility for this."


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