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Tenant raises stink over pigeon filth

Weeks-long fight to get air shaft cleaned may finally see results

A North Vancouver man is crying foul over the effort he says he had to go through to get his landlord to deal with an unhealthy mess of pigeon poop lying inches deep outside his apartment.

"There's certain standards they are supposed to abide by," said Michael Ravenscroft, who rents an apartment at 107 West 1st Street.

Ravenscroft said he complained to his property management company, the City of North Vancouver and the health department for a month about the problem before anyone took notice.

"Any other situation where there's a biohazard, they have a hazmat team come in," said Ravenscroft. "It's taken way too lightly."

Ravenscroft said any time he's called the authorities, to ask that the property owners be ordered to clean up the pigeon droppings, "They say it's done. It's not done."

Ravenscroft said he first became concerned there might be a problem when he smelled something bad in one area of his apartment and couldn't find the source, no matter how much he cleaned. It was only when he looked outside, to one of two light shafts running down the middle of the heritage building, that he realized what the problem was: layers of pigeon droppings and decomposing pigeon carcasses.

Until recently, Ravenscroft said he had a hard time getting anyone to take the issue seriously.

Pigeons, that often make nests in covered areas of buildings, are known to carry diseases that can be transferred to humans.

Pigeon droppings can carry funguses and - more rarely - an infectious disease that can be contracted by anyone breathing in dried droppings.

Paul Markey, environmental health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said the risk is greatest for people actually cleaning the mess rather than living near it.

Markey said a health officer met the property manager on site last week and received assurances the light shaft areas will be cleaned.

Markey added that a number of pigeon-proofing measures have already been placed around the building - including metal spikes that prevent pigeons and other birds from roosting.

He said those will now have to be added to the areas of the building above the light shafts.

Joanne Stevens of Living Balance, the property management company for the building, said she's aware of the problem and is arranging for cleanup and further pigeon-proofing.

Andrew MacBain of Pigeon Patrol, a Lower Mainland company that specializes in bird-proofing, said he's taken a look at the problem and will be submitting a plan to get all areas cleaned up by the end of the week.

Pigeons are a huge pest problem all over the Lower Mainland, said MacBain - roosting on ledges, apartment balconies or under awnings. MacBain said his company manufactures and installs spikes to deter the birds, as well as netting and sonic devices that scare birds away with high-pitched frequencies as well as sounds that imitate predators.

He adds there's no shortage of business.