<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>

Rats Invade Quiet Neighborhood Surrounding Covanta

By Frank Parlato

This dear rat and many others are part of the new landscape on the streets near Covanta.

They didn't ask for this.... But they now have a neighborhood infested with rats....

Covanta's businesses in garbage. Rats are a mere byproduct,...

Covanta has been in Niagara Falls
for years....

Rats will go to where the food is...

Once a quiet neighborhood, where quiet people lived and made their way in life. Today they are challenged by a strange new world. One where rats re brought in and are sought out, poisoned and trapped.

There is a problem with rats. Near the Covanta Energy Plant.

And neighbors are complaining.

What would you do if it happened to you?

We drove to the neighborhood and stopped on Stephenson Avenue near 56th Street .

Right near Covanta. This is a quiet, modest neighborhood. But to live in it now, now that rats have taken over, is disquieting. The black rat, the brown rat. The Norway rat.

Since 1980, Covanta Niagara, L.P., a subsidiary of Covanta Energy Corp. of New Jersey, at 100 Energy Blvd. and 56th Street in Niagara Falls, has been converting municipal waste into renewable energy, which, it is said, benefits the power needs of local businesses like Occidental, Goodyear, Norampac, Niacet and Praxair.

Their incinerator burns 800,000 tons of garbage each year. It comes from various places as rotting, festering, stinking garbage and they burn it.

And sky borne, the smoke fills the air.

They burn garbage from as far as Toronto . And turn it into steam.

Every day 300 trucks come loaded with garbage and rats come along for the ride.

We walked by a few houses and down the alley between 57th and 56th Streets.

There were dead rats.

Some were so far decaying they looked brown and rotting, lumps of carcass, hair and bones sticking through like little chopsticks. Surrounded by flies and maggots.

They were eager to talk this Thursday, early Summer evening.

Neighbors came out when they saw us.

All, it seems, are aware of the problem.

One of the neighbors, Rhonda Grose has lived on Stephenson for 14 years,

"They ruined my pond, dug trenches in my gardens, under my porch and my shed. I watched them from the dining room lifting lids on metal garbage cans in my driveway to get at the garbage. Rats," she said.

"My house smells like a dead rat," said a man who was with her. "They are all over the place."

"I've seen them in my backyard literally like a parade," said Maureen, a resident of 20 years.

"My kids used to put up a tent in the backyard. No way now," said Darlene, a resident of 57th Street .

Was anyone bitten?

No. Not yet.

It's only a matter of time.

A woman said a rat bit her nephew's dog, on 68th Street .

And rats have large teeth and painful bites. Bleeding often occurs.

When cornered, rats will lunge and bite to defend themselves.

Although infection is rare, rodent bites should be cleaned and disinfected.

As we walked with neighbors, we saw more dead rats.

Some were killed in traps. Other poisoned. Others shot by pellet guns.

Neighbors have taken into their own hands.

Pity the poor rats. In a warm nest of garbage, on a garbage truck. Maybe it was Toronto or Amherst . The truck moves. The rats are riding, plump in their garbage, from Amherst to Niagara .

Now it comes to Covanta. Dumped. Soon to be burned. The rats flee.

Avoiding a midnight burn.

Out into the streets. Down Stephenson, running, seeking a place to hide. Up the alleyway.

To live, to find food. The humans, their enemies, if they find them, they'll kill them.

This, they know. If only they could rest. To find warmth, to find a home, someplace safe, anywhere, to hide and find a place of refuge.


Borrow under this garage. Sneak into this home and eat and live.

Here is a garbage can. But to the rat, it is food.

Like every other creature, rats have a desire to live, to breed, a will to survive.

The average lifespan of a rat varies; two to three years, many live only a year because of predation.

We stopped and stood in the alley now, a dozen people with us now.

"I lived in my home for 15 years and, until two years ago, I never had anything but an occasional field mouse," a woman said. "Last night I found a feral cat hiding in the tree behind my property. I think it's because it's safer there than being on the ground. Rats roam at night. When I sit on my back porch I tap my feet the whole time to keep the rats from coming and running across my feet."

"A rat chewed a hole through the siding on my home just above the foundation to get in and steal dog food," said a man.

"Yeah, I noticed a hole walking down the basement stairs. I could see my neighbor's house," someone said.

A woman: "They run across my feet. I am afraid to go in my back yard at night. I'm petrified to go to work. I work late at night when it is dark."

A woman: "One day I went down in my basement to do laundry and a rat ate a hole through my wall. I could see my neighbor's house next door so I put a trap out and killed it. Then I had to fix the damage."

Man: "I had dead rats in my backyard, about a dozen dead, because I laid poison down."

Woman: "They dug holes in my yard. I can't plant a garden anymore," and she showed us her lawn and the holes rats made borrowing under her garage.

Man: "I'm afraid to go to my backyard at night anymore. They are all over. You can hear 'em. It's crazy."

A woman: " I had one laying in my garden the other day, halfway hung over, dead."

Man: "For 22 years, I've never even had a mouse in my home. Now they got holes in my yard. I can't plant a garden anymore."

Who do you think it is?

"Covanta," they all said at once.

Lady: "I got a friend that worked over there. They personally called him in to do work, because the rats were up in the ceilings, and he had to remodel the ceilings of the Covanta building."

A lady: "The man next door put multiple traps out there every night and catches them every day. There are probably some lying there in his garbage right now. I've never even had mice in the 20 years I've been here, before this…"

A man: "How about the other night where I had my two dogs fighting over the one that they kicked up in the air and I ended up stopping them so they don't get bit. There was one near the garbage can the other night, that I killed stopping them. The last six months, we've had them like crazy. There's one right there smushed in the alley.

"I have a weak stomach. I have a hard time with them. The other night I had to kill it. The gentleman over here is trapping them like crazy. I can't put traps up on my yard because of my dogs. I can't rat poison my dogs. It wasn't a big deal, until these people started bringing garbage from all over the place. I don't know. One of these gentlemen here, actually saw the rat coming out of the garbage truck, coming down the street. ... I have a 6 six year old grand daughter that I'm raising. I have concern over her getting bit. Me, I'm a big guy. I can take care of a little rat, maybe. I have to have somebody out there all the time with my granddaughter."

A woman: "She is not allowed in the night. I think about this all the time. I saw a dead rat in my front yard."

Man: "I have custody of my six year old granddaughter and if she got bit and anything happened to her, it would kill me.

Man: "I was sitting in my kitchen the other night, eating, and one ran right across the floor. Yeah 6 -8 inches big."

Woman: "You can hear the rats in the backyard. There's no way you can put a tent in the backyard and let your kids sleep there now. I used to sit in my backyard all the time, dinner parties and I haven't even lit a fire this year. I put dirt in the holes where they dug. They ate a hole on the side of my house.

Man: "I have seen them at night, come across the street. In this property, which is a rental property now... What was happening was they were actually chewing through this asphalt and they have an asphalt floor all the way in that garage."

Man: "You see trucks drive long distance with garbage. I was talking to the drivers, and they said they find rats in them a lot. My cousin is a heavy equipment operator and union hall would send them up here. And he had the job of pushing the garbage out of the truck to the dump here, in a pile, where they get ready to burn it. And in the winter time especially it was worse, because rats are looking for warmth. Garbage trucks are warm inside when they sit overnight. and there'll be at least five rats in almost every truck. Now imagine how many trucks are coming in and dumping here every day. And they don't come from just here. They come from Tonawanda , Amherst , Kenmore , Canada . So you know there are rats in that stuff. Now it's summer. They are running all over the place. They are chewing holes in the walls. I went to the basement to do laundry and I see the hole. I set a trap and caught it. I had to put new siding, mortared the sill, put in a new sill, new wood, put the siding back up to keep them out. I found a rat as big as my shoe. About a foot. Tail to head."

Another man: "I've seen them jump off garbage trucks..."


Last Friday, Grose petitioned their neighbors from 57th Street and Stephenson Avenue to 63rd Street , collecting 248 signatures. The petition read: "We would like to stop Covanta from bringing in more garbage and rats. We would like Covanta and the New York state DOT to end the current rat infestation in our neighborhoods and help us control the rat population in the future."

On Monday they brought that to City Hall.

And Rhonda Grose called every politician she ever voted for.

She tried contacting Covanta.

Only City councilman Sam Fruscione responded.

He, in turn, contacted Dennis Virtuoso, acting director of the code enforcement department. He came with a Board of Health official and Covanta's Plant Manager, Kevin O'Neill, last Friday.

They found a half dozen rats. Two were in a swimming pool.

Virtuoso said he's not convinced the rats are coming from Covanta.

They might be coming from the Buffalo Avenue construction site.

"Why would the rats leave Covanta?" Virtuoso said. "They have a smorgasbord right there."

O'Neill expressed a similar comment, it is said.

"We heard the concerns and we are trying to address it," Virtuoso said.

Grose and her neighbors - maybe all 248 of them - will be attending an informational meeting about the Covanta Niagara expansion at 6 p.m. on Aug. 14 at City Hall.

Imagine how it would be, if it happened to you.

You hear the scratching 20 seconds of, "pfft-pfft-pfft," followed by silence ...

The noise comes again. As soon as darkness descends, you hear them. You become convinced you can smell them too.

A distinct odor. Sweet, acrid, vile.

You find some droppings. They are too large for a mouse.

Looked like coffee beans.

The baby developed sniffles - what if it was caused by the rats.

Then you make visual contact. One rat, then another. There are three, each a good six inches long, scuttling across your kitchen.

One heads behind the fridge, another disappears under the dishwasher.

You came and put down poison, but can't find where they are getting into the house.

Rat traps with a sickening "snap" and every night you load them with peanut butter or cheese. Within a week, eleven dead. Go get 'em out.

A stinking, blood-spattered rat slides out.

You awake in the small hours of the night and hear them, gnawing at the woodwork underneath the floor boards. One dies down there: You smell it for months.

Anxiety, dread , panic, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, dry mouth shaking.

That's how people feel when they confront rats.

The people near Covanta are confronted.

248 of them signed a petition.

Having your life invaded by them, finding them eating your food, being surprised when they jump from a trash can, smelling them, getting sick from them. As fear can be triggered by the mere presence of a rat in a room. Some are repulsed by how rats feel. A startled response, occasional fright.

What would you do, if it happened to you?



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

AUG 06, 2013