Have you ever been in a public restroom where the toilets have an automatic plastic cover that whirls itself around the seat to provide a hygienic surface for the next user? If you’ve passed through O’Hare International Airport and used the facilities, chances are you have at least seen them.

Such seat covers are now the center of a controversy in the airport for a couple reasons.

First of all, they have been found to be have a flaw that can refute some of their hygienic purpose. It turns out that if toilet water is spit up during a flush or if urine makes its way onto the bowl, the liquid then gets dragged onto the plastic cover where the next person is supposed to sit.

The Chicago Sun-Times investigated the issue in person at the airport after receiving a tip from a reader. Watch this video to see how the supposedly hygienic covers might not be so clean at times after all:

Similar automated toilet seat covers could have the same issue.

Still, ABC News reported the “SaniSeats” manufacturer North American Hygiene, which sells them to the O’Hare contractor, saying how the Sun-Times reporter squirted orange juice all over the bowl is not generally how the toilet would be treated.

“You can take any product today and play it around with it enough to make it not work the way it should be working,” Jerold Wagenheim with North American Hygiene Inc., told ABC News, noting the seat covers have been used at the airport for 13 years without a complaint like this.

ABC also contacted O’Hare officials who said they have not received complaints and that they are looking into a water pressure issue that could contribute to situations like that demonstrated by the Sun-Times.

The second bit of the controversy is that the covers at O’Hare come from a new five-year contract with United Maintenance Co. Inc., which was found to have sold half of its company last year without reporting it, according to the Sun-Times.

It becomes more of an issue when the $99.4 million deal was opposed by Service Employees International Union, which preferred the seat’s previous vendor, according to the Chicago Business’ Greg Hinz.

Hinz wrote that officials said the failure to report was “inadvertent” and that the city will not be taking action regarding the new contractor. But this doesn’t sit well with Hinz.

“A company involved in an extremely controversial city bid deal sells half of itself in the middle of the bid process and doesn’t tell anyone until after? And the city says that’s OK?” Hinz wrote.

(H/T: NPR)

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