Carrier USS Nimitz Still Sidelined Over Fresh Water Contamination

September 27, 2022 8:38 PM - Updated: September 28, 2022 12:03 AM
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) departing San Diego, Calif., on Feb. 15, 2022. USNI News Photo

USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is still pierside at Naval Air Station North Island due to ongoing problems with the ship’s drinking water system, two officials familiar with the matter told USNI News on Tuesday.

The Navy delayed Nimitz‘s plans to leave the pier and the ship is using San Diego’s water while it works out the issues with the potable water system, a Navy spokesman told USNI News.

Nimitz‘s scheduled underway date from NAS North Island was postponed in order to conduct further testing and evaluation of its potable water system. The ship has been connected to the city of San Diego’s water supply since Sept. 17 and continues to provide fresh water to the crew. The health and wellbeing of our Sailors is a top priority, and the internal potable water system remains offline until we can be certain it can produce the highest quality water to the crew,” Ens. Bryan Blair said in a statement.
“Laboratory tests were conducted on wastewater samples taken on Sept. 19 upon Nimitz’s arrival at Naval Air Station North Island. Those tests did not detect measurable amounts of fuel hydrocarbons in the wastewater. Additional testing was conducted Sept. 21 on water samples from the ship’s potable water tanks which yielded detectable traces of hydrocarbons.”

The crew discovered aviation fuel in the water system on Sept. 16, USNI News previously reported.

The other ships with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group are at sea for the Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) ahead of an upcoming deployment, the two officials confirmed to USNI News. It’s unclear how long the issue will keep Nimitz at the pier or if it will affect its upcoming deployment.

The Navy claimed last week that it had resolved the issue and the water was safe to use after sailors did not have clean water aboard the carrier for three days. At the time, a service official told USNI News the contamination occurred because of a procedural “line up” issue rather than material damage to the ship.

In a statement last week, Naval Air Forces said the water was safe for sailors.

“The crew immediately took action to secure access to the ship’s potable water and provide bottled water to the crew. After conducting a thorough flush and inspection of its potable water system, fresh water has been restored to the ship. The water onboard the ship is safe for use and the health and wellbeing of all of our sailors is a top priority,” Cmdr. Zach Harrell, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces, told USNI News on Sept. 21.

While the Navy has not detailed the issue that led to the initial contamination of the potable water system, Nimitz uses a ballast tank system that can mix fresh water with jet propellant-5. The fresh water in the ballast tanks — which naturally separates from the fuel — can be used for potable water. However, if the procedure isn’t followed correctly, the drinking water can become contaminated.

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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