In the middle of our capital, homes which shame us all
CAMPAIGN: Dolphin House families want action now to save their health
TWO mothers have spoken of their fears for the health of their children because of the living conditions in their homes.
Sabrina Byrne (33) and Michelle Tracey (34) say they are battling mould which is growing on the walls of their Dolphin House council flats and affecting their children's health.
And foul-smelling water continues to gurgle up into the bath of Michelle's home, said the mother-of-three.
The two mothers were among several residents at a public meeting yesterday regarding their concerns about dampness, condensation, mould, waste water contamination and foul smells which they claim violate their human rights to adequate housing.
Residents of the council flats and local representatives were joined at the meeting by Dr Maurice Manning, president of the Irish Human Rights Commission, Mary White, Minister for Equality, Integration and Human Rights, Dr Fiona De Londres of UCD School of Law, and Martin Kavanagh, acting assistant city manager at the city council.
Ms Tracey showed mould and damp to the Herald at her home at the 436-flat complex at the South Circular Road, Rialto. Pointing to a manhole cover outside her front door, she said: "It overflows with sewage on a regular basis. Two months ago, cotton wool, sewage and toilet paper came out. It's no place for children to play."
She pointed to the ceiling of her bathroom where she said a section of the ceiling collapsed because of dampness.
"I was sitting in my bath when part of the ceiling plaster fell on top of me. The plaster was damp and it left a disgusting smell afterwards," she said.
"At times, suds come bubbling up out the plug hole in my bath from other homes in the area. It smells like a dead dog."
Then she showed her daughter's bedroom where mould appeared to be growing on the lower walls near the bed.
"Sometimes when using the washing machine I find a smell coming off the clothes afterwards so I have to wash them again. It's disgusting," said Ms Tracey.
"My son Jamie is back using his inhaler again. My doctor tells me my home could be causing health problems."
Sabrina Byrne said she knew that mould growing on the walls of her flat was directly affecting the asthma problems of her children Dean (12) and Erin (2).
Ms Byrne was alarmed at the findings of a micro-biologist who declared the spores from the mould threatened human health.
The expert reported he discovered the highest ever levels of harmful pathogens in mould at Dolphin House flats that he had ever encountered in a dwelling.
"We live in a one-bedroom flat and my doctor said that the children's asthmatic problems were not being helped by breathing in the spores from the mould on the walls. And breathing damp air is also very bad for asthmatics," said Ms Byrne.
"I brought Erin to the doctor 11 times last winter.
"We all sleep in the one bedroom and coughing and wheezing can cause both of them to be kept awake. I'm dreading this winter.
"Something must be done about our homes."
Council chief Martin Kavanagh said toilet waste could not enter people's baths and sinks as both systems were entirely separate.
He had not yet seen scientific reports about levels of contamination of waste water entering residents' homes.
Work had taken place on some wastewater pipes.
But he told residents that Dolphin House was "years away" from any work commencing on a re-generation project.
He said council engineers who tested four flats believed mould was the result of condensation rather than dampness. The council were installing de-humidifiers in four flats in a pilot scheme to monitor how they affect the mould problem, he said.
Minister Mary White said she would arrange for a delegation to meet Housing Minister Michael Finneran and Environment Minister John Gormley as action cannot be delayed.
Cecilia Forristal, of Rialto Rights In Action, said independent monitoring would continue. She indicated there would be requests for the Irish Human Rights Commission to have a role in inquiring into violations of human rights caused by conditions at Dolphin House.