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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

‘These aren’t little furry pets’: Chesterfield tenants discuss localized rat infestation

Spilled+trash+cans+on+Chesterfield+Road+in+Oakland.
Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer
Spilled trash cans on Chesterfield Road in Oakland.

Chesterfield Road, on a steep hill in West Oakland, is home to many things: dozens of Pitt students, longtime residents, UPMC workers and, most notably, an extremely localized infestation of hundreds of rats. 

Eloise Clark, a Chesterfield resident for 24 years, said she’s seen this before. 

“When I was younger I lived a couple houses up, when my kids were small,” Clark said. “There was a rat problem then, but the city stepped in and got rid of them. Then years passed and I moved back onto the street, same rat problem.”

Clark recalled certain nights where different street animals would fight with the rats, which she could hear from her home.

“These aren’t little furry pets,” Clark said. “You could hear the rats fighting with the cats out here at night. And you would think the cats would win, but it was the rats that were winning.”

Clark said she believes the rats are caused by certain student tenants mishandling trash. She called the mayor’s office several times, asking them “to please put some bait down,” but received no response.

“You get the few who really just don’t give a damn,” Clark said. “They throw garbage everywhere, and they just don’t care. I want the city to step in like they did some years ago and get rid of [the rats].”

Audrey Nagata, a sophomore pharmacy major who has lived on Chesterfield since August, said the rats change how she does daily tasks like taking out the trash. 

“When we’re taking our trash out sometimes, we’re afraid to pick it up, so we’ll kind of just kick it and stand there for a little bit,” Nagata said. “Sometimes we’ll pick it up and be walking, and there will be one inside, and it’s really scary.”

Chesterfield Road in Oakland. (Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer)

Like Clark, Nagata attributes the infestation to the immense amount of trash accumulation. 

“When we first got here, the trash trucks weren’t coming down the street for some reason, and the trash was just out for like four weeks,” Nagata said.

According to Nagata and other residents, the hot weather and pileup made it the worst in the fall. 

“In the first like two months we were here, you could hear them at night trying to tip the trash cans over,” Nagata said. “I live on the lower floor, so they’ll just be outside my window sometimes crawling on the trash,” Nagata said. 

Nagata’s landlord requires her to put out and clean up trash during specific hours, which she finds helpful. 

“I wish people on the street, like the landlords, would make a stricter rule for how you keep trash,” Nagata said. 

Previous initiatives by the city have attempted to address the massive amount of garbage pileup, such as the annual Garbage Olympics. Last fall, according to the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works, 482 volunteers collected 926 bags of trash throughout the city.

The Department also recently issued changes to Pittsburgh’s normal trash and recycling collection schedule, according to WPXI. Cardboard boxes will no longer be collected during non-recycling weeks in an effort to ensure recyclable materials don’t go to landfill.

With these changes, some residents say educating the student population on proper disposal rules is the solution. Clark said students should be “​​be reeducated about how important it is when you’re living close like this.”

The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) created an initiative to educate students living in Oakland on proper trash and recycling disposal. Volunteers went door to door in Oakland, distributing fridge magnets with a QR code leading to a student resource page with collection schedules, disposal guides and other resources. 

Despite these efforts, accumulation remains an issue for students like Maggie Galvin, a sophomore media and professional communications major, who would often see a “freshly run-over rat” regularly.

“[The trash accumulation was] the worst when we first moved in,” Galvin said. “There was a lot of trash buildup from the students who had just moved out.” 

Galvin’s roommate Leah Brush, a sophomore biology major, cites the city’s collection schedules as the main issue. 

“Pickup is once a week and recycling is every two weeks, so it’s hard to avoid. We get new trash cans and they chew holes through them,” Brush said.

Joseph Suzow, who has lived on Chesterfield for 15 years, also said the main issue is trash containment.

“The primary issue definitely is containment,” Suzow said. “If the rats can’t get to the trash, they don’t have anything to eat, they’re gonna leave.”

Suzow built a fence around his front lawn to prevent rats from damaging or knocking his trash cans into the street. Like many other residents, he’s struggled with rats damaging his property and eating through the cans. 

“The regular trash cans that you get, they’ll eat right through the bottom of it,” Suzow said.

For those without a protective fence, “Once the rats do get in the trash, it’s littered on the sidewalks and it just sits there marinating,” Galvin said.