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Fuel in Potable Water System Delays Deployment of Carrier USS Nimitz

nimitz under way
USN file image

Published Sep 29, 2022 10:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

As the U.S. Navy works its way towards a full resolution of the fuel-in-water incident at the Red Hill tank farm, the crew of the carrier USS Nimitz have been dealing with another. After jet fuel was detected in USS Nimitz's potable water system on September 16, the carrier has been working to cleanse its tanks and pipes of contaminants.

A preliminary investigation determined that one of the ship's two dozen potable water tanks was contaminated with JP-5 jet fuel. The ship returned to the pier in San Diego, and the crew has been using piped-aboard municipal water and bottled drinking water while troubleshooting continues, according to Navy Times.

Follow-up testing still showed "detectable traces of hydrocarbons" in potable water tanks as recently as Tuesday. The ship's planned deployment has been delayed until the completion of "further testing and evaluation," a spokesperson said. 

Five sailors have reported health effects potentially related to contaminated water, and four have been cleared, a 3rd Fleet spokesperson told Navy Times. 

Trace fuel contamination in the potable water supply is an occasional part of carrier life, according to some Navy veterans. Nimitz-class carriers can carry about three million gallons of JP-5 on board, and it gets moved, used up and replenished while under way - creating technical opportunities for contamination.

Navy fined for sewage leakd

In addition to its liabilities for the Red Hill spill, the U.S. Navy's Hawaiian command now faces a multimillion-dollar fine for “repeated discharges of untreated or partially treated sewage to state waters.”

Hawaii's Department of Health has fined the Navy $8.8 million for 766 counts of alleged sewage pollutant discharges in excess of permitted limits, along with 212 counts of alleged operational and maintenance failures. It has also ordered corrective action, to include repairs of a UV disinfection system and a structural integrity assessment for some equipment. The facility in question was already on an improvement plan with the U.S. EPA.

“We are taking action to protect our state’s water resources and to hold the Navy accountable to make critical repairs and prevent a potential catastrophic failure of the facility," said Kathleen Ho, the department’s deputy director of environmental health.