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Thursday 22 March 2018

Beware: you could be sitting on a pile of dangerous filth

Brian McDonald

VISITORS to town and city centres across the country are unknowingly sitting on piles of dangerous, filthy waste.

Stone seating with timber tops located in public spaces in several counties have now been revealed as unseen dumping grounds for human and animal waste.

Galwayman Gerry Devaney made the discovery when he became concerned about his own health during the summer and believed his problems may have been linked to the times he spent sitting on the public seats alongside his workplace.

A street trader for more than 30 years, he sat virtually every day on the three modern, public seats alongside his pitch across the road from Eyre Square in Galway.

He contacted the HSE and Galway City Council to express his worries, but when no action was forthcoming he erected signs warning members of the public not to sit on the seats for reasons of public health and safety.

The city council eventually arrived and lifted the timber tops of the three seats. A sea of disgusting waste spilled out from each. It included hypodermic needles, used condoms, human and animal waste, decayed food and even nappies.

All of the refuse had either fallen or been stuffed between the narrow timber spaces and gathered underneath, literally inches from where people sat.

"I couldn't believe how bad it was. It was disgusting, every bit of it and it just has to be a big health hazard," said Mr Devaney.

Council workers spent several hours removing the waste, hosing down each seat and removing the timber tops. They returned some weeks ago with metal strips sealing off the gaps between the timber. Mr Devaney said the workers did an excellent job, but the council then ignored his pleas to similarly clean and repair 11 further seats at the top of Eyre Square, the most popular location for strollers to relax in Galway city centre.

"These are all the same design and I'm sure there are hundreds of seats like them in places all over the country. But people don't know that when they sit down in Eyre Square, they are sitting on top of this toxic material, just inches underneath them", he added.

Mr Devaney stressed that there was a particular urgency to the situation in Galway with up to 300,000 visitors expected to throng the city for the first ever continental Christmas market due to open at Eyre Square next month.

Galway city councillor and solicitor, Peter Keane, whose offices overlook the square, said he was horrified when he saw the photographs of the waste stored under the seating area. "I will certainly be taking this up with the council", he said.

A spokesman for Galway City Council pointed out that the area around Eyre Square was cleaned daily. He added if there were any concerns about the public seating, the council would look into the matter.

Irish Independent

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