Burch blames residents for rat problem

  • People are the problem: Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    People are the problem: Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works (Photograph by Akil Simmons)


The “irresponsible behaviour” of residents regarding trash pick-up is to blame for Bermuda’s rat problem, the public works minister told MPs on Friday.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said: “I have had enough people, including Members from that side, come to me and say ‘what can I do about the one person in my neighbourhood that just ignores all the rules?’

“They are the cause of the problem. Their irresponsible behaviour is the cause of the problem. Of course, they encourage rats.”

Colonel Burch said that he had discussed waste management in the House of Assembly “on at least three occasions”.

He added: “The Government could decide tomorrow to go back to twice-a-week garbage collection.

“You know what we’re going to get? We’re going to be back to where we were almost two years ago — total unreliability of collection. Because you do not have enough vehicles, even today.” ,

Colonel Burch added that the decision to move to once-a-week trash collection was “based on data, and facts, and statistics”, and that “a majority” of island residents had accepted once-a-week pick-up.

Colonel Burch said there had been an uptick in the trash taken in at the Tynes Bay facility after the Government improved the hours of service.

He added: “The tonnage of waste that has been collected at the public drop-off since we went to once-a-week garbage collection has gone up exponentially.”

Sylvan Richards, the environment shadow minister, said that rats were “everywhere” on the island.

He added: “Everyone’s talking about it, everyone’s blogging about it. It’s been a topic of conversations for weeks now. We have to acknowledge that rats are a problem.”

Mr Richards said that debate about whether the vermin problem was linked to once-a-week collection missed the point.

He explained: “It’s going to become a real health hazard, because rats carry disease.”

Mr Richards pointed to comments made last week by Michael Ashton, the Chief of Medicine at the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

Dr Ashton said that “an increased rat population poses a risk to humans and other animals due to their potential to harbour and transmit infectious diseases”.

Mr Richards said that Bermuda needs to deal with the problem.

He added: “No more excuses.”

Mr Richards said that he understood the efforts of Colonel Burch to try and get the public to place their trash out in appropriate bins and on the correct day.

But he added: “Good luck with trying to get people to do what they should be doing.”

Michael Scott, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said: “We don’t have a rodent epidemic in our country.”

He said a return to twice-a-week trash collection was not the “silver bullet” to solve the uptick in rat sightings. Mr Scott added that if the decision was made to return to twice-a-week collection “it is not going to reduce the sightings of rats”.

He added: “I guarantee it.”

Michael Dunkley, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, questioned if the problem was because of staff shortages.

He suggested that Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, discuss the issue with environmental health personnel.

Mr Dunkley added: “I understand that’s the crux of the problem, not enough staff out there to do what they have to do.”

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Published Jul 15, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 15, 2019 at 6:23 am)

Burch blames residents for rat problem

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