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Boston Begins Big Dig, But Feud Erupts Over Rodent Control

December 9, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ City and state officials are engaged in a rat race for the control of a potentially pesky problem of rampant rodents.

The city is starting a decade-long excavation and reconstruction project that some experts say could have rats overrunning the city.

At odds are the director of rodent control for Boston and an rat-control expert hired by the state, a professor from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

The officials are arguing over a report released recently by the state that city officials claim excludes them from rat control plans and does not focus enough on early prevention.

″We question what will happen if our plans don’t jibe,″ said Sam Wood, director of the city Inspectional Services Department. ″The way the report is written, it’s like people will call us with complaints and we’ll have to decide if it’s a complaint about a city rat or a state rat.″

William Jackson, on the faculty at Bowling Green, was hired by the state to develop a plan to curb the spread of rats when excavation begins downtown in 1990. The $4.5 billion project includes a plan to build a third tunnel under Boston Harbor and transform the Central Artery from a six-lane elevated highway to an eight- to 10-lane underground expressway.

Jackson and his firm, Biocenotics, issued a report on a plan to eradicate the thousands of rats expected to be uprooted from their homes during construction.

Jackson’s plan calls for placing rat bait around three ″rodent control zones″ along the construction route. According to the plan, the baiting would begin 60 and 90 days before construction.

The plan also calls for an education program to inform residents on rodent- proofing and sanitation, negotiations with utility agencies and public agencies about rat control.

Wood charged that Jackson’s team ignored the city’s seven-point plan issued last summer that outlined the need for early prevention, constant monitoring by city inspectors and an emergency team to respond to resident complaints.

Wood claims that Jackson’s plans concentrate on underground rodent control efforts but do not allow the city enough staff to respond to problems that arise when rats escape after construction.

Jackson was en route from Bowling Green to Boston on Thursday and was not available for comment.

Central Artery project director William V. Twomey said Thursday that Jackson and his firm were hired because state officials believed a rat control expert was needed to develop an ″overall perspective″ of the rodent problem.

″I’m surprised at Mr. Wood’s comments,″ he said. ″The report is peppered with references to working with city officials. We want to work with them and take their plans into consideration.″

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