Etobicoke residents plead for help amid rat infestation

Dan Irwin, who's lived on Judson Street for 39 years, says he had never seen a rat until this spring, shortly after a pile of debris emerged on a strip of city land near a homeless encampment. (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)
Dan Irwin, who's lived on Judson Street for 39 years, says he had never seen a rat until this spring, shortly after a pile of debris emerged on a strip of city land near a homeless encampment. (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)

A rat infestation is plaguing residents in a south Etobicoke neighbourhood.

And they're blaming an impromptu garbage dump set up by residents of a nearby homeless encampment in Mimico's Coronation Park for their new furry neighbours — though a pest control expert and their local councillor say a nearby excavation site is likely contributing to the problem.

Regardless, the neighbours are pushing for action from the city that they say is long overdue.

"There needs to be a massive clean out; there needs to be aggressive action," said Sarah Giles, a 10-year Judson Street resident.

"It's very upsetting," she said. "It's a quiet community and (we) don't need to see it degrade."

Giles and her neighbour, Dan Irwin, say the area near Royal York Road and the Gardiner Expressway has never had rats before. But they say that changed this past spring, when a tent appeared in the park at 10 Judson.

Judson Street resident Sarah Giles stands by a pile of garbage across the street from homes on the quiet street. The garbage has been associated by neighbours with a nearby homeless encampment in a park at 10 Judson.
Judson Street resident Sarah Giles stands by a pile of garbage across the street from homes on the quiet street. The garbage has been associated by neighbours with a nearby homeless encampment in a park at 10 Judson.

Judson Street resident Sarah Giles stands by a pile of garbage on the quiet street. (Mike Smee/CBC)

Shortly afterward, neighbours told CBC Toronto, more people began setting up tents. As of last week, there were four in the park beside a playground.

Across the street, garbage has been accumulating in a wooded area on city property, beside a blue tarp lean-to where someone appears to be sleeping. That garbage pile, residents believe, is the source of the rats.

Irwin told CBC Toronto he's trapped five rats in his yard in the last 10 days. A neighbour, he says, has caught four.

"It's a nice community but it's deteriorating because of inaction by the city," Irwin said.

A dead rat lies in a bucket in the backyard of Dan Irwin. He says he's caught five rats in traps he's set in the past couple of weeks.
A dead rat lies in a bucket in the backyard of Dan Irwin. He says he's caught five rats in traps he's set in the past couple of weeks.

A dead rat lies in a bucket in the backyard of Dan Irwin. He says he's caught five rats in traps he's set in the past couple of weeks. (Rob Krbavak/CBC)

Coun. Amber Morley, who represents the neighbourhood, confirmed a person is living in the lean-to and, in accordance with city policy, he and the others in the encampment will not be forced to move.

"The city's encampment approach is clear," she said. "The folks taking up residence in our parks are already displaced and unhoused individuals, so to have that person move along is to have them move somewhere else similarly unsuitable."

Morley said the city's priority is to "get them indoors as soon as possible."

Irwin told CBC Toronto he has nothing against the people living in the encampment, but he objects to the dump site that he believes is the main source of the rats.

"I want to see this cleaned up, I want to get rid of the rats, and I want these (homeless) people looked after," he said. "But not by allowing them to live in a park in a tent."

Part of a homeless encampment that's developed at Mimico Coronation Park since the spring. Residents say the camp developed in the park about the same time as their rat problem.
Part of a homeless encampment that's developed at Mimico Coronation Park since the spring. Residents say the camp developed in the park about the same time as their rat problem.

Part of a homeless encampment that's developed at Mimico Coronation Park since the spring. Residents say the camp developed in the park about the same time as their rat problem, though a pest control experts say it could be the result of construction. (Rob Krbavak/CBC)

Morley said the city's strategy for the neighbourhood is to come back to the site and clear away the garbage from time to time. Staff are also searching for longer term solutions.

She said city staff visited the site a few weeks ago and removed three tonnes of garbage that had accumulated over several months. As of last week, mounds of trash had reappeared.

City staff told CBC Toronto a cleanup crew was scheduled to return to the site on June 21.

Rats could be displaced by excavation

Morley said she sympathizes with the residents. However, she says she believes garbage from the encampment site isn't the only source of rats in the area.

She pointed to demolition work at a construction site just east of the neighbourhood, which could be adding to the problem as excavation often displaces rat populations.

Part of a garbage pile that's sitting across the street from Coronation Park on Judson Street. Three weeks ago, the city hauled away about three tonnes of garbage from the site.
Part of a garbage pile that's sitting across the street from Coronation Park on Judson Street. Three weeks ago, the city hauled away about three tonnes of garbage from the site.

Part of a garbage pile that's sitting across the street from Coronation Park on Judson Street. Three weeks ago, the city says it hauled away about three tonnes of garbage from the site that had accumulated over months. (Mike Smee/CBC)

Dale Kurt, a pest control expert with Orkin Canada, agrees. He says the fastest way for an infestation to grow is through the sudden displacement of rats during construction — "assuming, of course, that there were rats there in the first place."

He says it's likely a combination of the construction and the impromptu dump site that's causing the Judson Street problems. "Both can be affecting rat populations," he said.

Morley also disputes the idea that her office has not responded to residents' complaints. She said she and city staff held a public meeting with residents, city staff and police in late May.

She also said city staff will be out during the week of June 24 to assess the situation again.