SOUTH AMBOY — A recent influx of rats in the city has left residents trying to figure out where the vermin have come from and what municipal officials are doing about it.

City business administrator Glenn Skarzynski said officials have received numerous rat complaints this summer, resulting in officials from the health and zoning departments being sent to investigate. He said the city tries to respond the day of the complaint and determine if there are rats there and what can be done to  get rid of them.

"If I saw a rat in my yard I would be pretty mad," he said.

The Middlesex County municipality is not alone.

In Hillside, residents have also brought their complaints to the governing body. Mayor Dahlia Vertreese told that they have seen some success with residents hiring exterminators get the animals, though some residents said even a professional wasn't a sure thing to get rid of them. Municipal inspectors there have been laying down traps and collecting dead rodents from public spaces.

In Bloomfield, the municipality's health department has started a program of laying bait and poisoning rats found in the Halcyon Park neighborhood, according to

Skarzynski said the most common solution is property remediation, which can include clearing garbage, cleaning lawns and making sure residents have proper garbage cans that keep the creatures out. The city is not involved in the removal of the animals themselves, leaving that up to the property owners. He said for abandoned properties where no owner can be identified, the city will do the clearing work and put a lien on the property.

Beverly Samuelson, a former councilwoman, said her neighborhood is "full" of rats. She attributed that to a number of rental properties not being maintained, as well as some abandoned properties where rats can easily make themselves at home.

While she has seen the city's code enforcement officer checking some of the lots, Samuelson said it is one person against a large and growing problem. She said the problem has been getting worse since April.

"All of a sudden, we're invaded," she said. "Rats are going to be everywhere, but in neighborhoods, if your properties are well kept and people clean up after themselves, they're not going to come here. There's no place for them to hide."

Skarzynski said that while he did not know what was causing the influx in rats in the town he did not believe recent road and sewer work might be to blame.

"Do rats use the sewer system as a subway system? Yes. Are there colonies of rats living in our sanitary sewer system waiting to terrorize the populous? No, they're not," he said. "There are rats all over the place. it's just a matter of when an area becomes attractive to rats they're more apt to be out and congregating and reproducing in that area."

While South Amboy residents might want the municipality to do more, Skarzynski said they are still making every effort to respond to complaints and continuing to monitor the situation.

"If we were dropping the ball I'd want people calling us on it because that's just not good government if we don't respond," he said. "We're being as responsive as we really should be in this regard."

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