Is home-composting cause of Essex Junction rat problem?

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 11:46 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - One Essex Junction neighborhood is dealing with an influx of rats. Those living there say they’ve been seeing more than ever in the past year and it may be linked to home-composting.

Essex Junction Health Officer Jerry Firkey says there has been four reports of rat problems in the East Street neighborhood, but he wouldn’t call it an infestation. “We’ll investigate any complaint we have,” Firkey said. “We feel a major part of the problem is composting.”

Vermont law requires people to keep food scraps out of landfills by donating them, composting them, or using them for animal feed. The only exceptions are meat and bones.

“They [rats] need food. They need water. They need habitat; you take away food, you take away the rat,” Firkey explained. “They’ll find water anywhere. They’ll find habitat anywhere, but if you take away the food source, the rats disappear.”

We spoke with at least five people living in the area of Pleasant and East Streets. None wanted to talk on camera, but they all say they’ve heard of, seen, or caught rats. The seemingly growing number of them in the neighborhood has many people bailing on composting.

“In most instances, what we found most maintained and structured compost piles don’t have those issues,” said Alise Certa with the Chittenden Solid Waste District.

That means putting something under or elevating your compost pile or bin. It also means mixing in some browns. “Which are your leaves, your straw, things like that, then you put a layer of food scrap,” Certa explained. “We actually recommend three times as many browns to greens, which are your food scraps.”

Additionally, Certa says putting a fence around your compost and mixing it regularly can help keep pests away.

No matter where you live, if you start having problems with rodents or other pests in your neighborhood, your first point of contact would be your local health officer.

Related Stories:

Keep compost safe from bears

Biologist offers suggestions for composting in bear-prone areas

Food scrap haulers see uptick in business after statewide compost law

Vermont households make effort to comply with compost law

Checking in on Vermont’s composting law compliance

Copyright 2022 WCAX. All rights reserved.