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E. coli found in US aircraft carrier’s potable water tanks

USS Abraham Lincoln potable water bacteria
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) returning to Naval Air Station North Island after a deployment to US 3rd and 7th Fleets. Photo: US Navy

Water sample tests taken from potable water tanks on US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in September this year indicated the presence of E. coli bacteria, the US Navy said in a statement on October 13.

The navy issued the statement after sailors aboard the aircraft carrier identified an odor and cloudy appearance in the ship’s potable water while operating off the coast of Southern California on September 21.

On September 22, tests conducted on board the ship indicated that E. coli bacteria was present in three of 26 potable water tanks. Those tanks were isolated and secured from the potable water system and free bottled water was made available to the crew.

While the Navy acknowledged the presence of bacteria in its potable water systems earlier this month, it did not specify that it was E. coli.

The odor and cloudiness in the water abated by September 22. However, since the presence of E. coli was not related to the reports of odor and cloudiness in the water, on September 24, the Navy sent additional water samples to Orange Coast Analytical, Inc., a laboratory certified by the state of California’s Department of Health, for further testing. Results came back on September 26 indicating that the water was within drinking water standards for pH, turbidity, aluminum, copper, lead, sodium, and hardness.

All potable water tanks currently in service to the crew have been tested and are clear of E. coli. The affected water tanks remain isolated and will be deep-cleaned and inspected during the ship’s ongoing maintenance period.

According to the service, there have been no confirmed cases of illness related to the ship’s water, but the Abraham Lincoln medical department continues to closely monitor their sailors for any potential symptoms.

Abraham Lincoln returned to its homeport at Naval Air Station North Island October 3, concluding a seven-month deployment to Asia Pacific. Since its return, the ship has been connected to the San Diego water supply, the navy noted.