Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is back at sea preparing for an upcoming deployment after being kept pierside due to jet fuel contamination in its potable water system, USNI News has learned.
The carrier left the pier at Naval Station North Island, Calif., on Sunday to meet the other ships in its Carrier Strike Group for the Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX).
“Nimitz got underway after all tests came back in limits and the potable water was determined to be safe for the crew,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a spokesman for U.S. 3rd Fleet, said in a statement to USNI News.
“The ship had been pier side at Naval Air Station North Island since Sept. 17 flushing, cleaning, testing and evaluating its potable water system to ensure the highest quality water is provided to the crew after trace amounts of jet-propellant 5 (JP-5) were found in its potable water system Sept. 16 while underway off the coast of California.”
During its time at the pier, the carrier hooked up to San Diego water and flushed the system with about one million gallons of fresh water, according to Robertson.
“Orange Coast Analytical, Inc., a laboratory certified by the state of California’s Department of Health, has tested the water within the ship’s potable water system 70 times since Sept. 21,” Robertson said in the statement.
“Since the incident occurred, eleven sailors reported symptoms that could be attributed to JP-5 ingestion to Nimitz’s medical department. These symptoms include headache, rash, and diarrhea. All eleven sailors have received treatment and have been cleared for duty. Nimitz leadership continues to encourage Sailors who experience any symptoms to be evaluated by medical professionals on board the ship.”
The Navy said it had fixed the potable water issue several days after discovering the contamination while at sea, but the carrier remained stuck at the pier for nearly two more weeks.
In a Sept. 21 statement, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces said the Navy had no instances of confirmed sickness for sailors aboard the carrier.
But Robertson told USNI News on Friday that Nimitz‘s commanding officer on Sept. 16 urged sailors to report if they felt sick and those “symptoms presented themselves between Sept. 17 and [Sept.] 26.”
As of Friday, Robertson said 10 sailors reported symptoms that could be related to the jet propellant-5 contamination.
“None of the 10 are currently reporting any symptoms that might be associated with JP-5 ingestion,” he said on Friday.
Meanwhile, late last month the crew of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) discovered small amounts of bacteria in its potable water.
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) found traces of bacteria in the ship’s potable water while operating off the coast of southern California on Sept. 21. The crew shifted water tanks to isolate the affected water,” Robertson said in a separate statement. “All tanks providing water to the crew have been tested and are bacteria-free. The crew has safe water to drink. There have been no confirmed cases of illness related to the ship’s water. The health and wellbeing of our sailors is a top priority.”