Hannah Sullivan was taking out her garbage on June 18 when she found a rat lying in the pail. A few days before that, she said, she found another one dead in her backyard on Foster Avenue.
Sullivan has lived on the street since 2001, she said, and had never seen a rat until recently, when New York American Water began drilling a new well at its plant on Whitehall Street.
The construction began in March, and Sullivan and other Foster Avenue residents have said that around the same time they began noticing the pests. In cities such as New York and Chicago, similar underground construction has dug up rat burrows, forcing them to flee, according to The New York Times.
“It’s very upsetting when you’re not used to this kind of thing,” said Linda Marlowe, “and all of a sudden, you see rats in your yard.”
Representatives of New York American Water deny that their construction caused the infestation. Lee Mueller, the company’s external affairs manager, said that after NYAW received complaints from residents such as Sullivan, it hired Lynbrook-based Arrow Exterminating Company Inc. to conduct a study of the rat activity in the area, which found that there was “no evidence of rat activity . . . on the site.”
“Their investigation found no evidence of rodents, past or present, living or breeding within New York American Water’s property boundaries,” Mueller explained in an emailed statement to the Herald.
John Kilpatrick, NYAW’s engineering manager, shared those results with the residents, Sullivan recalled, and suggested that the infestation may be a result of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s cleaning the tracks and trimming the bushes at the Westwood Long Island Rail Road station down the street.
Residents, however, said they doubt that claim. “I’ve been living here for 50 years, and that’s a crock,” said Kathy Neville. “They’ve been trimming the bushes for years, and we’ve never had anything.”
Neville said she had seen mice on her property since construction began — although Marlowe, said she, too, mistook the rats for mice when she first saw them — and added that she could “only imagine what else is down there.”
“It would be nice if they could take responsibility at least,” Neville said of the utility.
Marlowe also said that a NYAW representative saw a rat on her property when he was walking around the neighborhood, and suggested she get an exterminator. But, she recalled, he said that the utility would not pay an exterminator or for the repairs of her concrete and masonry, which the rats had damaged. “I just felt that we were getting the runaround,” Marlowe said.
Eventually, she said, she did hire Oceanside-based Liberty Pest Pros Inc. to set up poison and traps in her yard, which will likely be there for the entire summer. “It could take a few months for them to get all of them because they’ve nested under our yards,” Marlowe said, but added that she has not seen any rats since the traps were installed.
Still, she said, she worries that the infestation may spread to other houses in the neighborhood, and said, “it would be nice” if New York American Water helped with the eradication efforts.