LINCOLN PARK — Those living near the soon-to-be-demolished Children's Memorial Hospital buildings received an unsavory warning from developers this week: major construction will likely lead to rat issues.
"It's going to be awful," developer Dan McCaffery of McCaffery Interests told neighbors while discussing next steps for hospital demolition, expected to result in vermin scurrying from their nests in droves.
Rats are an issue at any excavation site in a big city. Take the Wilson Red Line and Wrigley Field construction, for example. Developers are required to do on-site rodent abatement from the time excavation begins until excavation is complete or risk fines.
McCaffery assured residents that his development team has an abatement plan in place that includes rat traps. Crews will begin the plan this week, and the first building isn't scheduled to come down until April.
But he said it's impossible to predict how bad the rat problem will be until the buildings start coming down.
"If it gets real bad, we will have to double or triple our efforts," he said.
The rat control plan has come up at a community meeting for the Children's project before. At the time, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said the development team had agreed to do more abatement than the city requires.
McCaffery urged residents to contact the development team with any concerns so they can address them quickly and efficiently. Contact information is provided on the project's website.
Jennifer Martinez, a spokeswoman for the city's streets and sanitation department, said her agency has been working closely with Smith's office and the development team on preventive baiting.
Like McCaffery, Martinez said communication from neighbors is "critical" to success. She encouraged neighbors to call 311 to report any rat issues.
Martinez said residents can do their part to deter rats by keeping garbage contained within closed carts, bins or dumpsters, removing old tires, lumber or other piles of debris, weeding and throwing away rotting fruits and vegetables from gardens, maintaining bird feeders, cleaning up after dogs and not leaving uncovered pet food outdoors.
Now for some unpleasant facts about rats, courtesy of the city's official page on the rodents.
• While they prefer fresh food, they will eat pet food, dog feces, garbage and plants.
• They can crawl through holes the size of a quarter and chew through wood or plaster.
• The average life span of a rat is six to 12 months.
• Rats carry a variety of potentially infected fleas and ticks, which can be passed on to people. In rare circumstances, rats will bite people or pets.
Also, as one Lincoln Park X-ray technician learned this week, Chicago rats can be pretty resilient.
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