West Haven union files OSHA complaint over state of the beachfront bathrooms at Savin Rock
The union that represents city public works and parks maintenance workers filed a federal health and safety complaint Monday, July 16, over the condition of the bathrooms at the Savin Rock beach.
The city called in a private disaster-recovery cleaning company to give the bathrooms a thorough cleaning after Local 681 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed the complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The complaint — in the midst of a dispute between the fiscally-challenged city and the union over overtime to open, close and clean the bathrooms — follows two weeks of complaints by residents and workers about the condition of the bathrooms.
The city installed remotely-operated locks on the bathroom doors so it no longer needs to pay overtime to city workers to come open the bathrooms in the morning or close them at night on Saturdays and Sundays.
But maintenance has continued to be an issue.
“Either you maintain them, or you’ve got to shut them down,” Local 681 President Erik Peterson said. “It’s bad, it’s terrible, it’s unsanitary — it’s disgusting.”
Peterson said the bathrooms at Old Grove Park adjacent to the beachside boardwalk wasn’t cleaned between late Friday night, when a worker took care of them, and Monday morning — although acting Public Works Commissioner Louis Esposito Jr. said they actually were cleaned Sunday morning, as well.
The situation appears to have been exacerbated by stopped-up toilets in both the women’s and men’s rooms.
When the city arranged to have Board of Education plumbers go in to fix the problem on Monday morning, “they said it’s beyond cleaning,” said Peterson. “You need to call” a clean-up company, he said. “It’s terrible here. Something’s got to be done here.”
A van from Star Restoration of North Branford was down on the pad alongside the bathrooms, and an employee was working to clean them , on Monday afternoon.
The toilets have been fixed, Esposito said.
According to both Peterson and the union complaint, which was signed by him and Local 681 Chief Steward Rosa Richardson, when workers went in Monday morning, “there were feces on the walls” and/or floors and toilets had overflowed.
The OSHA complaint also states that there also were “bodily fluids on the walls” and “tampons on (the) floors.”
“This is no longer a general maintenance issue. This is an issue that will require decontamination by a certified company” or individual, the complaint read.
“You can’t just send a bathroom attendent down and he’s going to scrub feces off the walls,” said Peterson.
While toilet overflows were part of the problem this past weekend, “last week they ran out of toilet paper on Saturday,” Peterson said.
“Either they’ve got to maintain it or shut it down,” he said. “You can’t have it both ways.”
The problem, said Esposito, is that “we’ve lost our summer help” as a result of union rules that prohibit the hiring of temporary or part-time workers at a time when city union workers have been laid off or furloughed.
“I’m trying to move people around” to cover everything that needs to be covered, Esposito said. “We’re trying to keep ahead of it. I’m trying to make everything work with what we’ve got.”
But for some visitors to the city’s beach and boardwalk area — including some who came long way to visit — it was too late to make a good impression.
“It was not very clean,” said Iris Schwulera, a tourist from Gladbeck, Germany who was visiting the West Haven beach Monday with her husband, Jens.
“It’s disgusting,” said Marie Berardi of the Oakville section of Watertown, a regular visitor to the West Haven beach who was there Monday with her friend, Joan McBride. “I walked in there this morning and said, ‘Oh, my God!’
“All these years that we’ve been coming here and it’s never looked like this,” Berardi said. “I love it down here, but when we walked it,” they couldn’t believe it, she said.
“I cleaned it up,” said McBride, going into detail about how she picked up some of the paper that was strewn around the ladies room.
But that wasn’t good enough, she said as the Star Restoration worker did his work.
“It needs to be disinfected,” she said.