The booms of Boomtown may be sending colonies of rats scurrying across uptown.
A rat infestation earlier this week forced the Federal Reserve Bank on East Trade Street to close its onsite cafeteria. Reserve officials said they believe construction on their building, as well as other projects taking place nearby, scared the rats up from the sewers.
City and county officials said they were not aware of a rat problem at the Federal Reserve, nor had they heard of any rat problems uptown. But according to pest control experts who work the area, construction in the past few years has frequently led to rats coming up from their sewer homes.
“You get increased activity anytime you break ground,” said Mike Seifert, an exterminator with The Pest Control Authority, a private company that handles about 95 percent of buildings uptown. “When you put up a building, it sends rats running.”
Uptown Charlotte has experienced a period of extended growth recently. A skyline filled with construction cranes hints to the disruption taking place below ground: blasting, digging and pile-driving.
The Federal Reserve's problems started about one month ago when workers encountered a growing number of the brown critters along the building's perimeter. The agency has been beefing up its security systems, a process that has torn up the ground along Trade Street.
Adam Pilsbury, assistant vice president of public affairs for the Charlotte office, said the rats eventually made their way into the cafeteria, which serves many uptown employees.
“Once that happened, we shut it down,” he said. The cafeteria is scheduled to reopen next week, if the problem is solved.
Jim Ericson, head of Mecklenburg County's vector control, said rats are especially prevalent in older neighborhoods near uptown.
“Where there are people, there will be rats,” he said.
Typically the rats are perfectly happy to hang out in the sewer and eat what we shove down our garbage disposals. But the ruckus created on construction sites, especially when blasting starts, is enough to scare them topside. Buildings rarely experience prolonged problems from the rat surge.
As part of his job with The Pest Control Authority, Seifert lays out poison bait stations. When rats nibble the poison, they usually die within 24 hours.
Seifert has worked for the company for about seven years. He said he has watched the rat population increase along with the human population uptown.
“More restaurants and more bars means more stuff for them to eat,” he said. “The bigger a city gets, the more rats it will have.”