Parnassus trash problem abating but rats are still a concern |
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Numerous rat holes are shown in a woman's yard in New Kensington's Parnassus neighborhood on Aug. 13, 2018.

Officials continue to look into complaints about rats in New Kensington’s Parnassus neighborhood but have not found a serious problem so far.

Councilman Doug Aftanas said the city has taken several steps to address complaints voiced by residents, particularly Patricia Shelkey of Sixth Avenue.

At the Aug. 6 council meeting, Shelkey said she was concerned about rats in the neighborhood being a safety issue. She claimed she and her husband, over the previous few weeks, trapped 15 rats.

She blamed abandoned buildings in the neighborhood and trash in the alleys for a rat population explosion.

City Controller John Zavadak echoed her complaint about garbage, claiming that Waste Management, the city’s refuse contractor, was leaving garbage uncollected in the alleys.

Aftanas, council’s public safety chairman who oversees the code enforcement office, said, “We’ve been in contact with Waste Management and we’ve been very happy with their work in the last two weeks.”

Chief Code Enforcement Officer Pat McGrath also said that, because of heavy rainfall raising the water table, more rats may have been traveling through the storm sewers and coming into neighborhoods.

Aftanas said that since the complaint, the New Kensington Municipal Sanitary Authority has flushed the storm sewer lines.

“The line’s clear,” he said. “They viewed it with a camera and flushed it twice.

He said city officials have not found any infestation of rats but said they will remain diligent in monitoring the situation. He said residents should do the same.

He said he contacted the Westmoreland County Conservation District about help it may be able to provide in controlling rats but was told the agency is no longer involved with that.

According to Aftanas, the agency referred him to the Westmoreland County State Health Center, which he called but had not yet received a response.

One step he is proposing is the city adopt a manual similar to one that Allegheny County has regarding the control of rats on private property.

“We are going to try to adopt something in the next month or two,” he said.

Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.

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