The U.S. Navy concluded its investigations into the separate potable water contamination incidents aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) on Oct. 26 and Nov. 10, 2022 respectively.
The investigation into the presence of jet propellant-5 (JP-5) aboard Nimitz found that JP-5 residue in the ship’s bilges entered an unused potable water tank through a deteriorated gasket on top of the tank sometime between June 2020 and March 2021, during the ship’s previous deployment.
On Sept. 16, while the ship was operating off the coast of Southern California, Sailors aboard the ship reported a fuel-like smell and taste in the ship’s potable water. Engineering personnel immediately secured access to the ship’s potable water and commenced testing of their potable water tanks. Free bottled water was made available to the crew during this time. While in port at Naval Air Station North Island Sept. 17-Oct. 2, Nimitz was connected to City of San Diego water supply. On Oct. 1, test results indicated that 22 of 26 potable water tanks tested below the health action level for JP-5 in drinking water recommended by the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center – 266 part per billion (ppb) – and the ship’s potable water was determined to be safe.
Nimitz returned to Bremerton, Wash. on Oct. 28 and the isolated tanks were thoroughly cleaned, repaired, inspected, and returned to service. Currently, all 26 potable water tanks on board are providing safe water to the crew.
Eleven Nimitz Sailors reported symptoms that may have been a result of JP-5 ingestion. Those Sailors were treated by the medical staff aboard the ship, their symptoms resolved, and all 11 Sailors were cleared to return to duty by Oct. 5, 2022.
The investigation into the presence of bacteria in the potable water on Abraham Lincoln found that bilge water entered a potable water tank through a hole, caused by corrosion, in the tank’s ventilation pipe while Abraham Lincoln was in port at Naval Air Station North Island, Sept. 17-21, 2022.
After getting underway at approximately 1 pm on Sept. 21, the ship’s engineering personnel identified an abnormal taste in the water being supplied from the contaminated tank. In accordance with Navy procedures, the tank was immediately taken off line and the water in the tank was tested for free available chlorine (FAC); the results indicate that the FAC levels were within specifications and the contaminated tank was placed back in service. At approximately 7 pm, engineering personnel reported abnormal smell and color, in addition to taste, in the ship’s water and the Engineering Officer of the Watch ordered that all potable water tanks currently online be isolated. On Sept. 22, results from tests conducted aboard the ship indicated that E. coli and coliform bacteria were present in three of the ship’s 26 potable water tanks. Those tanks were secured from the potable water system and free bottled water was made available to the crew.
The corroded ventilation pipe was repaired and the affected potable water tanks were deep-cleaned and inspected as part of the ship’s ongoing in-port maintenance period. All 26 of Abraham Lincoln’s potable water tanks have been tested and are providing safe water to the crew.
There were no confirmed cases of illness related to the ship’s water.
Commander, Naval Air Forces, Naval Sea Systems Command, the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and the Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center continue a dedicated effort to review and update policies and procedures on potable water maintenance and corrective actions to ensure the health and safety of our Sailors.