Sailors Hospitalized After Drinking Tainted Water Aboard HMS Portland

Royal Navy frigate escorting Russian vessels in the North Sea
HMS Portland (foreground) with Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov and the tanker Kama, 2022 (Royal Navy)

Published Feb 5, 2023 10:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy has recalled a frigate to port after several crewmembers became sickened by contaminated drinking water. 

HMS Portland has recently played a prominent role in tracking Russian subs and warships in waters of the North Sea, but her patrol has had to come to an end. Following an "issue with one of the ship's fresh water systems," the vessel has headed back into Portsmouth as a "precautionary measure."

According to the Daily Telegraph, a member of the crew accidentally added some improper chemicals into the ship's water treatment system. The issue was reported, but several people still fell ill. 

"A small number of personnel were taken to hospital as a precaution and [frigate] HMS Richmond has been stood up to cover any contingencies," the Royal Navy told the Daily Telegraph. “Nearly all involved have been discharged from hospital. All are expected to make a full recovery."

The circumstances of the incident are under investigation. 

The U.S. Navy has also experienced issues with drinking water contamination over the past year, though from different sources. 

In October, one of the potable water tanks aboard the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln became contaminated when bilge water leaked through a hole in the tank's air vent line. The crew reported foul-smelling, cloudy water from the taps, and several videos purporting to show the substance were posted to social media. 

The carrier USS Nimitz experienced a similiar problem in September when jet fuel was detected in her potable water system. The vessel returned to port in San Diego, where she could tap into water from the city's distribution system while sorting out the challenges with her own supply.