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I-Team investigates report of increased rats at ecomaine

A complaint about rats at ecomaine triggered an inspection by the City of Portland last week. 

PORTLAND (WGME) -- The I-Team Investigates a trash facility reportedly overrun with rats.

A complaint about ecomaine triggered an inspection by the City of Portland last week.

"They're all sizes. There's the babies and then there's the ones that are the size of a cat," said an employee who spoke with CBS 13 on the condition he remain anonymous.

Surveillance video obtained by the CBS 13 I-Team, and reviewed and affirmed by ecomaine, shows rats scurrying across a pile of food waste at the company's facility in Portland.

"This is not what I signed up for," said the employee. "My concern is my personal safety, because I ead up on the disease they carry. Some of them can be fatal."

Managers at ecomaine said they do have rats, but according to this employee, the population has grown dramatically since food waste recycling was launched last September. It's collected from grocery stores in Southern Maine and curbside in Scarborough and South Portland, and sits in the Portland facility until it's hauled away to be composted.

"Whether we had food waste in here or not, we could still have a rat problem and we have before," said ecomaine CEO, Kevin Roche.

When asked if the facility is infested with rats, Roche said, "No, the facility's not infested with rats."

City records show an inspector responded to a complaint on September 18 of a "larger than normal number of rodents on site."

"With this industry, that kind of comes with the territory," said Roche. "The rats actually come in with the trash and sometimes they can multiply here."

Roche said the video, dated September 9, shows a 12 hour time lapse during the overnight hours when the rats are more active.

He said the problem was brought to his attention a few weeks ago and they hired a pest control company.

A letter from the pest control company to ecomaine, dated September 26, said they're taking a more aggressive approach and so far the results are "satisfactory."

I-Team Reporter Marissa Bodnar asked Roche if the rats will go for the bait stations when there's food sitting out a few feet away. "Well, they have been. We've had some pretty good success," said Roche. "But you're right. I mean they're gonna go after what's most convenient for them and we have to keep on working at it so we reduce the population, and we will."

The ecomaine employee hopes things turn around soon so he can get back to enjoying the job he's always loved.

"It's not fair to us that we have to deal with it on a daily basis," he said.

Ecomaine is preparing to welcome the public to an open house at its facilities in Portland on September 30.

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