The US Navy said ‘traces’ of jet fuel were found in the water on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. A sailor says the problem was way worse.[ oct 2002]

Only “traces,” according to the US Navy, of jet fuel were discovered in the sea on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

A sailor, however, claimed to Insider that they had been exposed to an “unhealthy amount” of fuel and provided a picture as proof.

Additionally, they said that despite having health concerns, they didn’t get medical help right away.

The US Navy recently confirmed that the water used by the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz for bathing and drinking was contaminated by what it characterized as “traces” of jet fuel, but a sailor on the ship claimed the problem was worse than the service first admitted.

The staff was made aware of an issue with the water supply about two weeks ago. A sailor specifically reported that the water had changed to an alarmingly colored substance with an unpleasant odor. Hydrocarbons, a chemical element of jet fuel, were detected in the testing, according to the Navy, in “detectable traces.”

A sailor on board the ship recently spoke with Insider about a scenario that was much worse than the Navy had previously claimed.

The Nimitz sailor, whose identity is known at Insider but is being concealed out of concern for the risk of retaliation, stated last week that “We were exposed to a hazardous amount of JP-5.” JP-5, often known as jet-propellant-5, is a kerosene-based fuel that is frequently used by the Navy’s carrier air wings.

The sailor claimed that despite drinking and bathing in the contaminated water with their shipmates, they were first refused medical care for conditions that were thought to be caused by their exposure to jet fuel.

Five sailors have reported health difficulties that may be related to the contamination, despite prior Navy assurances that there had been no negative consequences. The ship’s leadership is keeping an eye on the matter, the 3rd Fleet spokesman told Insider on Friday. Insider was informed in an evening update that the number has subsequently increased to 10.

“If we hear any additional allegations of potentially contaminated water, we will quickly investigate and take proper action to safeguard the crew,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a spokesperson for the fleet, told Insider on Friday. At the time, according to the parents of the sailor Insider spoke with, some sailors were still being turned away by the carrier’s medical staff.

Discovering jet fuel in the water

On the evening of September 16, the sailor claimed they learned for the first time there was jet fuel in the sea. The crew “immediately took action,” according to a Navy spokeswoman, who confirmed this date to Task & Purpose, one of the media agencies that along with Navy Times broke the news of the issue.

The sailor claimed that that evening, the ship’s commanding officer informed the crew of about 3,000 that jet fuel had been found in the water and emphasized that they should not drink it and instead stick to the provided bottled water until they reached port.

However, the sailor claimed that later that evening, the executive officer and commanding officer of the ship assured them that the water was indeed fine to drink and that they had nothing to be concerned about.

The sailor declared, “Drinking was not safe.” People were taking showers in this stuff, and they believed the CO and XO.

The aircraft carrier docked at San Diego’s Naval Air Station North Island on September 17 in the morning, and by midday, it had been connected to the neighborhood’s water system. The sailor claimed that it wasn’t until that moment that the Nimitz command changed its mind once more and declared the water to be unsuitable for drinking and taking showers.

The sailor claimed that despite warnings that the water wasn’t safe, people believed that it was throughout the night and into the next morning.

The sailor claimed that medical staff “refused” to record sailors’ JP-5 exposure in their medical records and that they were “refusing to visit patients or admit that anything going on with patients of different sailors had anything connected to the JP-5.”

One serviceman was vomiting, while another developed a rash, according to the Nimitz sailor. The sailor’s parents, whose identities also were known to Insider but are withheld to protect the sailor, claimed in a separate interview that they noticed their son had a dry cough following the exposure.

Medical professionals told us it would simply pass through us, the sailor added. They claimed that after reading a safety data sheet that contains information on dangerous substances and comparing it to their exposure to jet fuel, it was obvious they needed to get medical help.

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Testing the water

The sailor described how a “thick layer of JP-5 on top of a potable water” was discovered when the ship’s water tanks were opened during inspection late on September 17. The process of trying to purge the jet fuel from the system came next.

They claimed that beginning the following day, on September 18, crew members started testing the ship’s water for taste and odour. This procedure reportedly continued for at least the next 10 days, and the sailor called it a “major concern.”

No mention of taste testing was made by Cmdr. Robertson, but he did tell Insider that a “sniffer squad” of Nimitz sailors has been charged with investigating “hot spots,” or locations with unsettling odours.

The sailor explained that after filling and emptying the water tanks, samples of the water were taken to check for jet fuel. However, they frequently noticed fuel residue around the tank’s walls when they were draining the tank.

In essence, the sailor explained, “what we’re doing is draining that water out, filling it back up, then letting the JP-5 cover the sides of the tank.”

The water on the ship has undergone two lab tests by September 21.

An early analysis of water samples from September 19 did not “find measurable levels of gasoline hydrocarbons,” a Navy official told Insider. However, the official reported that additional testing on water samples taken on September 21 from the Nimitz’s potable water tanks did find “detectable amounts of hydrocarbons.” The precise amount discovered was kept a secret by the Navy.

But pointing to the “thick layer” of fuel they observed on top of the water in samples, the sailor disagreed with the idea that there were only “traces” of jet fuel.

Late last week, the aircraft carrier was scheduled to leave San Diego, but it stayed in port instead. The crew’s opinion that there was still jet fuel in the water, according to the sailor, was not what initially prompted the laboratory testing; rather, they believe that this may have been due to media attention and coverage.

The sailor’s family gave Insider a screenshot of a text message exchange between the parents and the sailor to demonstrate the obvious effects of the jet fuel poisoning the water.

A picture that a shipmate shared with the sailor is included in the conversation. The photo, which appears to show a water sample taken from a water fountain and consisting of a thick, green coating on top and a muddy, white layer on the bottom, was reportedly taken not long after it was initially reported that there was jet fuel in the water.

Working through the aftermath

Because “we don’t have much of another option,” the sailor claimed that as of this week, some of their fellow Navy sailors were still using the polluted water for drinking and taking showers.

They claimed that although the coast water appeared clear and had improved, traces of jet fuel remained clung to the water tanks and pipework, leaving a persistent taste and smell.

Because JP-5 adheres to metal, the sailor explained, “the only way we can get all the contamination out of the tank is by thoroughly draining it and washing it.”

The Nimitz’s potable water system is still being assessed, according to Cmdr. Robertson, so that sailors would have access to the “best quality water” when the ship eventually departs San Diego.

All of our sailors’ health and wellbeing are our top priorities, he continued. To that aim, the Nimitz leadership reminds the crew every day to go to the hospital right away if they show any symptoms of a disease or injury that might be brought on by exposure to contaminated water.

10 sailors have reported health problems as of Friday, according to Robertson, and there haven’t been any new reports in the past 24 hours.

He said symptoms — which include headache, diarrhea, and rashes — were present between September 17 and September 26. None of those individuals are “currently reporting any symptoms that might be associated with JP-5 ingestion,” he said.

The parents of the sailor with which Insider spoke said in a separate interview that they have been reaching out to various lawmakers to try and voice their concerns, but they haven’t had much luck getting responses.

One father commented, “Serving this country is a privilege. But in exchange, I want the leadership to look out for the soldiers and sailors and support them.

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