By Marcia Anderson
On the third day of the 2013 Rodent Academy, participants visited numerous sites around lower Manhattan to improve their ability to identify rat burrows, runways, harborages and food sources.
The Rodent Academy participants visited Collect Pond Park which lies atop one of New York City’s foremost sources of fresh water prior to the American Revolution. Collect Pond was a large, 60-foot deep pool fed by an underground spring and was a favorite spot for picnics and ice-skating. In the 17th century the Dutch settlers called it “kolch” meaning “small body of water.” By the early 19th century, the pond had become a communal open sewer. In 1805, in order to drain the garbage-infested waters, a 40-foot wide canal was opened that today is known as Canal Street. Even after the pond was drained, due to the area’s high water table and the improper filling of the pond with garbage over an active spring, the site remained swampy and mosquito-ridden. Throughout the 19th century, nearly all of the city’s cholera outbreaks originated in the former Collect Pond neighborhood. By 1811, the City completed the filling of Collect Pond and had become known as “Five Points.” Today, this area is known as the Civic Center, due to the presence of many governmental offices.
What does all of this history have to do with rats? Think about it. This is a legacy dump site with buried garbage. There are lots of legacy rodent tunnels, developed over 100 years ago, 20’-60’ deep underground, complete with cosmopolitan rodent freeways and rodent apartments. And better yet, they connect to the human subway system providing a regular source of food.
Eyewitness accounts from security guards in surrounding buildings speak of large rats running back and forth from burrows in the park to the subway and storm drains and back again. We also noticed a lot of pigeon activity. The birds were feasting on worms and other bugs from the rich soil dug up from centurys old buried garbage.
This site is similar to much of NYC and other cities around the world, such as Rome. The new neighborhoods and cities are built on the remains of the old cities containing legacy garbage, legacy rats, ancient tunnels and rat infrastructure deep below current city streets.
Despite the cards being stacked against the New York City Department of Health and other rodent control professionals, progress is being made. There are new technologies in monitoring, backed up by expanding knowledge about rodent behavior that is being used against them. In addition, neighborhoods are actively helping the City to identify and exclude rodent access and working to eliminate food sources. The City is also deploying new types of rodent proof garbage can/compactors.
About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.