Watch CBS News

South Philadelphia residents say trash troubles have led to rat infestation, damage to cars: "We're just inundated by rats"

Trash trouble in South Philadelphia as residents say rats are damaging their cars
Trash trouble in South Philadelphia as residents say rats are damaging their cars 01:57

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Just after noon on Wednesday, things seemed quiet on the 2000 block of South Watts Street in South Philly. But people who live in this neighborhood say it's a whole different sight when the sun goes down.

They say they're facing an infestation of rats.

"Every time you come down the street, especially after dark, they're everywhere, running back and forth," said Andy Liberatoscioli, who has lived on the street for 15 years.

"They're big ones. I compare them to New York rats almost," Eddie Jimenez-Rios said.

The neighbors say they routinely see rats running through the streets. And while none have seen the rodents in their homes, several residents told CBS News Philadelphia the rats have been getting into their cars, sometimes causing thousands of dollars in damage.

"I have to get knock sensors replaced on my car, which I'm told is $2,600 worth of work," said Liberatoscioli. "The mechanic said they could tell it was from rodent damage."

"I have a Volvo, and it was just completely urine and feces. I had to get an expert to come out and clean and sanitize it," said BJ Barretta, a Watts Street resident.

Neighbors said they believe the rat infestation stems from a long-running trash issue with the Broad Street businesses that back up to Watts Street. Barretta said he's tried to work with some of the businesses himself, but so far there haven't been many results.

"Rite Aid emailed me this morning and said we're looking to mitigate. But you can see the trash is still open. They haven't done anything," Barretta said.

In a statement to CBS News Philadelphia, Rite Aid said, "We are aware of the situation and have contacted pest control to help mitigate this problem to the best of our ability. Our associates at this location ensure that trash is properly enclosed each day." 

CBS News Philadelphia has also reached out to Popeyes and Dunkin', which both have locations on that block, and is waiting to hear back.

"Our goal is to work with these businesses to come up with a trash plan," Councilmember Mark Squilla said.

Neighbors also contacted Squilla's office about the rat and trash situation. Squilla said officials from the health department went to the neighborhood Tuesday to take a look. First and foremost, Squilla says, they have to get rid of the rats.

"Baiting it right now will fix for the immediate," Squilla said. "But they'll come back if we don't address how trash is stored and how it's picked up."

That, Squilla says, is the bigger challenge. The councilmember said businesses store trash differently on the block, some inside stores and others outside in fenced-in areas. He says he'd like to see them all storing trash inside, but that may not be possible in older or smaller locations.

Squilla believes this will be something of a priority with Mayor Cherelle Parker's investment in cleaning and greening the city. And he said they're working with multiple city agencies to try to come to a resolution.

"Streets department and [Licenses and Inspections] and Sanitation and Health all working to come up with a plan of how we're going to address it and how trash is going to be picked up," Squilla said.

But Barretta, who said he's been fighting trash issues since he moved onto Watts three years ago, isn't holding his breath.

"We'll see. I've been asking for action for years. It's unfortunate we had to get to this point, where there's a literal rat infestation," Barretta said.

And while neighbors aren't giving up their fight to remove the rats from their block, many are looking for a new place to park.

"Guess I'm gonna spend a good amount of time circling the blocks every night," Liberatoscioli said, "trying to find a parking spot off of Watts Street."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.