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Fioretti gets to say, ‘I told you so’ about rodent control pilot

It’s not often that one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel strongest challengers gets the chance to say, “I told you so.” But Monday was one of those days for Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd).

The subject was rats.

The mayor’s office announced plans for, what it called an “innovative” spring pilot program that will seek to control rats in CTA facilities by targeting their fertility.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele insisted that the CTA started laying the groundwork for its partnership with Arizona-based SenesTech long before Fioretti suggested the idea in March.

“The M.T.A in New York did a test of this same product in the summer of 2013. Their preliminary results showed a slight decrease in the rat population. This is a product that is not harmful to humans or other animals, but makes rats infertile. If they can’t reproduce, the numbers begin going own,” Steele said.

“We look at peer transit agencies frequently for new and better ways of doing business. Our primary focus is going to be at our bus garages and rail terminals. Some of our garages are over 100 years old and have nooks and crannies rodents can access. We already have an aggressive abatement program, but we want to see if this new product would do an even better job. If it does, it could be used anywhere else we do abatement, including Red and Blue Line subway terminals.”

Fioretti scoffed at Steele’s claim that the rodent control partnership was forged before the alderman said a word about SenesTech.

“If that’s what they’re saying, they are outright liars. They never knew about it until I brought it to their attention, which struck me as strange that experts in the field didn’t know about new initiatives,” the alderman said Monday.

Fioretti charged that SenesTech officials were “told not to talk to me,” presumably so Emanuel could claim the credit.

“It’s good that, when we pose new ideas, [they’re followed]. But we should work in collaboration with people not against people. It’s not about getting the credit. It’s about getting it done,” the alderman said.

“If it proves successful [at the CTA], which I know it will, we need to bring it above ground and deal with the problems in our neighborhoods.”

Nine months ago, Fioretti sounded the alarm about a rat explosion — and urged Emanuel to use “liquid rodent sterilization bait” to get a handle on it — as Chicago was winding down from one of its most brutal winters in recent memory.

Pointing to an article in Animal Planet magazine that pegged Chicago as the “No. 4 city with the most rats,” Fioretti demanded then that Chicago follow the Big Apple’s lead.

With help from a federal grant, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority had been using a “rodent sterilization bait” known as ContraPest, which is touted for its ability to “accelerate the natural egg loss in female rats,” ultimately leading to what Fioretti calls “permanent, irreversible sterility.”

After meeting with SenesTech, an Arizona-based research firm that has been studying the “consumption and palatability of” the liquid bait, Fioretti said he was convinced that it could work in Chicago.

SenesTech researchers reported that 51 percent of rats consumed the bait; 58 percent of those did so multiple times and, based on the trapping, there was a 43 percent reduction in the rat population in the trash room at New York’s Grand Central Station.

“If this technology can work in New York City, it can work here in Chicago,” Fioretti said then.

In an emailed statement, Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe said Streets and San “takes rodent control very seriously and is always looking for innovative ways to improve its service…We are meeting with SenesTech after studying the results of the pilot program launched by NYC’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, which provides positive initial data on different ways to combat rats. The meeting has been scheduled for some time, and we are going to explore how this product could work in Chicago.”