Director of the Warwick Sewer Authority Janine Burke-Wells has taken on a new role in the wake of the construction of Governor Francis Farms sewers. Not by choice, but she’s become the perceived head of the city’s rat patrol.
Burke-Wells said Monday she’s been getting calls from neighborhoods across the city about rats, once a story about rats in the vicinity of sewer construction became the topic of social media and broadcast and newspaper reports last week.
“We got a call from Greenwood, but we’re not doing anything there,” she said.
Calls have also been coming in from other parts of Warwick well beyond the work in Governor Francis Farms.
As Farms residents believe, Burke-Wells sees a correlation between the hammering, as the contractor breaks through ledge, and the abundance of rats that was especially prevalent in the area of Canna Street.
Sewers aren’t the source of rats, as there are no sewers in the area. Burke-Wells doubts they are storm drain rats either.
“They’re big,” she said, “and not because they are living in storm drains.”
The authority has retained A&D Professional Pest Elimination from Pawtucket to deal with the problem. The company has requested residents to post the location of their sightings via a Facebook page established to address concerns over the sewer project.
Ward 1 Councilman Richard Corley reported Monday that he had talked to a number of Canna Street residents and that one resident reported trapping 12 to 14 rats. He said he had talked with the city administration and, in addition to addressing the problem in Governor Francis, he was told the city is looking to develop a plan that would include a common informational flyer.
Burke-Wells applauded Canna Street residents for their detailed information on the problem and efforts to work together.
As for what apparently is driving rats out of their nests, Burke-Wells said, “They’re still banging away at the ledge.” She said the authority is considering blasting, but that hasn’t been finalized.
A key to addressing the infestation, she said, is finding the rats’ source of food as well as eliminating places for them to live, such as low bushes where they sleep during the day. Nighttime lawn sprinklers, she said, provide the rodents an easy source of water, “just like a fountain.”
Robert Williams of 136 Canna St. said he first spotted a rat in early June when he let his dog out about 5 a.m. At first he wasn’t sure what he’d seen, as “we have a lot of rabbits.”
Williams went about setting out spring-loaded rattraps and for a period was killing at least one rat a night.
“The rats moved in and the rabbits moved out,” he said.
Williams set traps near the former rabbit borrows, baiting them with peanut butter and Tootsie Rolls. He has killed 13. He didn’t trap any rats Sunday night but doesn’t think he’s eliminated all the rats.
“They’re getting smarter and avoiding my traps,” he said.
Mayor Joseph Solomon, who visited the neighborhood Saturday with Senator Michael McCaffrey, said Monday that the sightings appear to have subsided.
“There are rodents everywhere,” he said. He said the important thing is for people to take measures to not attract rats by denying them food and water.
In a statement released by his office, Solomon said, "We are aware of residents' general concerns relative to rodents, and this year have increased our budget to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to combating the problem. Improving our neighborhoods is one of my administration's goals, and continuing to address this issue has been and will remain a priority."
Williams appreciated the mayor’s and McCaffrey’s attention to the issue. He reported that A&D representatives were expected to conduct a door-to-door survey, but he hadn’t received a visit as of yesterday afternoon.