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DC neighborhoods fed up with rat invasion

Rat-weary residents attended a meeting to discuss the known and growing rodent issue.

WASHINGTON — Beyond an invasion, people in Northwest D.C. say the rats have moved in and made themselves at home. 

"Rats in the alley, rats from the commercial (dumpsters) and even from the residential trash cans," said Michael O'Connor. "It really is affecting quality of life for the neighborhood."

"It's really scary," said Carrie Lamson as she recalled a bizarre encounter with the unwelcome rodents. 

"I came outside and there were two rats sitting on the steps, kissing, I kid you not. They wouldn't even move," she said.

A known problem for years, neighbors near Logan Circle say the rats have gotten worse since the pandemic. 

"I've lived in this neighborhood for 33 years. I really don't ever think I've seen it this bad," said John Guggenmos who runs a lounge on P Street NW and serves as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the area. 

Thursday, Guggenmos called what he thought would be a small meeting of people on his block. Word got out, and rat-weary residents from Dupont Circle to Mount Vernon Square showed up demanding help from the District -- more than three dozen during the middle of the afternoon. 

"The only way you can get that kind of turnout in a meeting is you have three things. You have trash problems, rat problems, and people are sick and tired of it." and right now this neighborhood has all three said Gerard Brown with D.C. Health, who attended the meeting to take questions and offer guidance. 

Brown has been fighting rats for the District in various roles for more than 20 years. While he agrees with the neighbors that unreliable commercial trash pick up is part of the problem, he says households with rats in their trash share some of the blame, too. 

"The rats were not eating their cans because they like plastic. The rats were eating their cans because they were trying to get to the food inside. And if there's no food inside, they will not eat those cans," said Brown.

He says don't throw away food, but put it down the garbage disposal, wash out food containers, and don't set your trash out until right before its scheduled pick up.

"If it's rats, you have to change something," said Brown.

"We all have to work together," Guggenmos said of the residents, businesses, and the District. "That's the only way we're going to make a difference."

He and others are working to organize another meeting with D.C. officials from more departments. They want help getting information about dealing with rats out to residents and more enforcement of fines for overflowing dumpsters. 

Another issue of concern is the vacant Grace Reformed Church on 15th Street NW between P and O streets. 

Neighbors say rats are congregating in the building. Brown, with the Department of Health, says the owner is working with an exterminator and cooperating with the city to seal off the building. 

RELATED: Top tips to keep rodents out of DC homes and businesses

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