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Concerns linger over contaminated water on USS Abraham Lincoln

Sailors told Team 10 the water smelled like jet fuel, but the Navy said mid-Oct. it is "not known" if JP-5 was present.
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Posted at 8:18 PM, Nov 22, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Sailors aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln are sounding the alarm about the ship’s water supply, despite assurances from the Navy that the water is safe.

While the Navy confirmed E. coliin the ship’s potable water on Sept. 21, some sailors believed there was something more.

“The water, it had an awful smell,” said one active-duty sailor who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “It smelled straight like gas. JP-5 smells exactly like gasoline, like putting in a regular car.”

Video shown to Team 10 showed discolored water with a brown film. Sailors said the water looked like there were oil spots.

Jet propellant-5, or JP-5, is a type of jet fuel used for aviation and aircrafts.

The sailor said he felt side effects after drinking the water.

“I feel the side effects now because I have rolling headaches,” he said. “I rarely even get headaches.”

Another anonymous active sailor on the USS Lincoln said she experienced pain and stomachaches. She believed her symptoms were due to the murky water.

“I drink water so much. That’s the only really thing I drink,” she said. She also did not want to identify herself for fear of retaliation.

“I realized after I was throwing up… I must have caught something. Was it the JP-5, the fuel, or was it the E. coli, or both? I'm not sure,” she told Team 10 during a phone interview.

When she went to get treated by the medics on the ship, she said she was given Pepto Bismol.

When Team 10 pressed the Navy in mid-October if the water on board the Lincoln could have been contaminated with jet fuel, a spokesperson said that “it Is not known if there were any traces of jet fuel in the ship’s potable water.”

The Navy only confirmed an “odor and cloudiness” in the water.

When asked why there was no testing done to determine if JP-5 was in the water, Team 10 never received an answer.

When asked if there were any documented cases of illnesses that sailors reported because of the ship’s water, the spokesperson said that “no sailors aboard the ship have presented any symptoms that were consistent with or concerning water-borne illness.”

Sailors that Team 10 spoke to disputed that.

“It was like, three or four days straight, I was just throwing up,” the female sailor told Team 10. “It would be toward the end of my shift. I would just eat and then I would just throw everything up. My stomach would be hurting.”

“They can't say it wasn't jet fuel,” the male sailor said. “We touched the water. The water was definitely silky. It gave off the texture and everything of the gas.”

The Lincoln was not the only ship facing water woes this fall. While training for an upcoming deployment in the Pacific, the Navy said that the Washington-based USS Nimitz had to dock in Coronado mid-September after it was confirmed that jet fuel made its water into the drinking supply.

A U.S. Third Fleet Naval spokesperson said eleven sailors reported getting sick after drinking the contaminated water. The spokesperson also said that these sailors were all treated for their symptoms and the water on the Nimitz was tested at least 70 times since the end of September.

“They're not asking for five-star treatment,” said Melissa Godoy, an advocate who uses social media to bring awareness to various issues in the military. “They just want a clean place to sleep. They just want a decent meal to eat and they want to be able to go to get medically cared for.”

Godoy said dozens of sailors have been messaging her about their experiences on the Lincoln.

“You can't just get off the ship and go to your barracks or… to a gym and take a shower. These people are trapped,” Godoy said.

The Navy’s latest update on the water situation aboard the Lincoln was posted on Oct. 21, confirming that bilge water—or dirty water—entered one of the potable water tanks through a hole found in the tank’s air vent line.

The Navy insisted there are no confirmed cases of illness due to the water.

“The most important asset the Navy has aboard the ship are the Sailors and civilians in that crew,” wrote Cmdr. Zach Heller, spokesperson for Commander, Naval Air Forces. He added that their health and well-being are top priorities.

Those Team 10 spoke to were skeptical of that statement.

“What about our people who go and fight for the country? You're not really taking care of them. It's why the Navy is slowly depleting. People are getting out,” the sailor said.