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FLINT, Michigan - His formal name is Rattus norvegicus, but here in Flint we know him intimately as the rat.The greasy, gnawing rodent feeds at night, burrows beneath homes and garages and eats everything no matter how disgusting.But its delicacy of choice? Fresh household trash.The preferred diet of the rat - and other pesky vermin - has some residents worried that a city decision to collect trash every other week will cause an explosion of the local rodent population.Rats are attracted to exposed garbage, which could become a serious health hazard if people store trash near their homes, said Genesee County Health Officer Mark Valacak.Rats can carry several communicable diseases, can fit through an opening a half of an inch wide and are known to bite, he said."Just wait for the mice and things to come," said Flint resident Charlie Luster, 68. "People aren't going to want (trash) in their home, and they'll put it out on the side of the road."Beginning Monday, residential trash pickup will be reduced to every other week, meaning household waste in most cases will be sitting around for an extra week before crews are able to collect it - and it will be up to residents to make sure it's properly stored.Garbage needs to be kept in secure, covered containers - preferably ones strong enough to withstand tiny, sharp teeth, said Valacak.Storing trash properly also will cut down on odors and deterioration of wet garbage, he said."I'm personally going to have to buy two more trash cans with secure lids," Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said. "We're going to have to do some new things in new ways."Walling said the trash cuts will save the city about $20,000 a week and more than $1 million in the first full year. The city is trying to trim a projected $8 million deficit.News reports show cash-strapped cities across the nation are considering similar cuts or privatization of trash collection to save money.Still, residents can't help but picture a stinky summer with bags of trash rotting in the sun or fear for an increase in illegal dumping on Flint's hundreds of vacant lots...
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