What to Know
- A trash pile that had been left to fester and rot since last fall, making it a feast for rats, was finally cleaned up
- Public health experts say those rats carry fleas that have spread typhus and could spread salmonella and even bubonic plague
Just 48 hours after the I-Team exposed a mountain of trash, that stretches for almost a city block, Los Angeles appears to finally be taking action.
Sanitation crews started clearing away the mountain of garbage on Ceres Avenue late Wednesday afternoon, as rats scurried all around in an alley between downtown LA and the Fashion and Produce districts. The giant public health hazard has been expanding just a mile and a half from Los Angeles City Hall and LA's mayor has ignored the filth.
As the I-Team has documented, this pile had been left to fester and rot since last fall, even though business owners have been calling the city to have it cleaned up.
"This is just a temporary fix," businessman Kevin Ebrahimi told NBCLA. "This is a fix for a week, maybe three days. Then, it's just going to happen again."
Ebrahimi's family runs an apparel company a few feet from the notorious trash mountain on Ceres Avenue.
They're worried because this mess and other uncollected trash heaps -- many near homeless encampments -- have become a breeding ground for huge rats.
Public health experts say those rats carry fleas that have spread typhus and could spread salmonella and even bubonic plague.
"I'm disgusted by it personally," LA Mayor Eric Garcetti told NBCLA back in October, when the I-Team showed the mayor photos of the mess on Ceres Avenue.
Top news of the day
After that interview, the garbage mountain was cleaned up.
But month after month since then, the I-Team continued to watch and documented that the filth has continued to pile up, uncollected. Business people in the area believe that the piles of unmanageable trash are probably caused by illegal dumping.
The I-Team made a call to 311 last month about the Ceres Avenue mess and was told it could take up to 90 days for the city to respond and clean up.
After the I-Team's investigation released earlier this week went viral, drawing national and international headlines, it seems that the attention put pressure on the mayor, and the Bureau of Sanitation, to clean up the embarrassing mess.
Wednesday afternoon, the city finally started clearing away the Ceres Avenue trash mountain. And it appears to have cleaned up some other trash heaps documented by the I-Team, like the one outside a Hollywood supermarket where a homeless man was living until Tuesday.
But there is still a big problem.
Minutes after the city cleared away the trash on Ceres Avenue, I-Team cameras caught rats running all over the area, which is next to LA's Produce District.
"It’s something the city just doesn't care about," Ebrahimi says, referring to the burgeoning rat population.
Unlike other big cities like New York and Washington D.C., LA has no rodent abatement program to deal with an exploding rat population, along with the fleas that reside on rats and could spread serious diseases.
"Last year, I had bites all over my body, and so did everyone who was working here," Ebrahimi says.
The store owner adds, "It's filthy, it's disgusting."
The NBCLA I-Team has reached out to Mayor Garcetti's office repeatedly in the past week and again on Wednesday, but the mayor has thus far declined to sit down and talk. His spokesman said the I-Team could possibly catch the mayor at a public event.
The I-Team still wants to talk to the mayor about rats and uncollected garbage, specifically what the city plans to do to deal with the threat of disease.