Rat problem in DC sparks calls for investigation from neighborhood group

If you caught Tuesday night’s Washington Nationals game against the New York Mets, you likely saw an unexpected four-legged guest in the outfield: a rat! 

For years, the District has had a serious rodent issue, but now one neighborhood association is calling for an investigation into the city’s trash can contracts.

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Earlier this week a group called the DuPont East Civic Action Association sent a letter to the District’s Mayor, councilmembers, and other city agency heads, calling for an investigation into the receptacle procurement process.

"The DC Department of Public Works ("DPW") is directly responsible for the explosion in the rat population in D.C. In a demonstration of astounding incompetence, DPW has provided throughout Washington, D.C. tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of trash containers that rats easily and routinely chew through. The rats therefore have a ready source of food. Indeed, members of DuPont East Civic Action Association ("DECAA") have reported that even when they have gone to the trouble and expense of hiring extermination companies who deploy bait traps, the rats will not frequent those traps because they have a ready source of food from chewing through the trash containers supplied by DPW," the opening paragraph of the association’s letter reads. 

FOX 5 stopped by an alley near 17th and T Streets, Northwest, where DECAA members say the issue is not hard to spot. Trash can after trash can (D.C.-issued and not) had holes in the lids or the sides that appeared to be from a rodent chewing its way through. 

Michael Hays with DECAA told FOX 5 the rodents chewing through trash cans are eating better than he does!

"Every place from you know Nats field up to here is infested with rats and I just can’t emphasize enough, DPW has known about this problem for years and they haven’t done anything to correct it. And it’s just – got to be the most monumental incompetence I’ve ever seen," said Hays.

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A cell phone video from D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, that’s circulating social media now, shows at least six rats escaping from a hole in the lid of a trash can after someone bangs on the receptacle. 

FOX 5 reached out to the Department of Public Works and was told they are talking with the Department of Health to respond to FOX 5’s questions. The Department of Health is responsible for rodent abatement in the District. FOX 5 has not heard back yet from either of the agencies. 

"I’m assuming that the material that’s used for the standard supercan is material that’s rodent proof. So it may be that there’s something about the quality of these cans that it doesn’t meet the standard," said D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson when asked about DECAA’s letter to city leaders, "It’s also possible that the rat problem is so prevalent that the rats are desperate and that drives them as well." 

"I’m not aware but the allegations are being made and they absolutely should be looked into," said Mendelson when asked if he was aware of any previous investigation into the quality of the city-issued trash cans. Mendelson could not commit to a hearing on the spot but would look into one – and whether it would be done through committee or the council as a whole. 


The DuPont East Civic Action Association is recommending a metal trash be considered for anyone who has a rat problem. Those who are looking for a replacement D.C. issued trash can visit this link.