Jet fuel penetrates water supply in Bremerton-based USS Nimitz

SAN DIEGO — Jet fuel permeated the water supply aboard the USS Nimitz on Friday while the warship was operating off the coast of Southern California.

Navy Cmdr. Zachary Harrell said in a statement that “traces” of the fuel, known as jet propellant-5, were found in the Bremerton-based aircraft carrier’s potable water system.

“The crew immediately took action to secure access to the ship’s potable water and provide bottled water to the crew,” Harrell said in the statement to the Kitsap Sun. “After conducting a thorough flush and inspection of its potable water system, fresh water has been restored to the ship.”

Sea: The Beat Blast boards the USS Nimitz

The water supply penetration comes at a critical time for the ship and its crew, which is embarking on its final series of tests known as COMPTUEX — or Composite Unit Training Exercise — to be ready for an upcoming lengthy global deployment.

The Navy did not say whether any sailors were treated or injured for either drinking or showering in the water.

“The water onboard the ship is safe for use and the health and well-being of all of our sailors is a top priority,” Harrell said.

“Purple pipe,” as it is sometimes called, carries millions of gallons of jet fuel used to refuel the dozens of aircraft that fly on and off Nimitz’s flight deck when at sea. The Navy did not say where or how jet fuel might have permeated the water supply.

The reported incident was posted to the blog trmlx.com earlier this week, which posted photos claiming to show jet fuel in water bottles collected by the crew.

It’s the second public predeployment issue with infrastructure on board the 1975-commissioned warship. In November 2021, after a year of work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Nimitz had to return home after three days on its first sea trial when crews found a “minor material deficiency” in the ship’s nuclear propulsion plant. But sailors and civilians at the shipyard worked throughout the year to get the ship back on track for its scheduled deployment.

The last deployment by Nimitz spanned 99,000 miles and took sailors away from Bremerton for 11 months.

The warship is closing in on the end of its career and is due to be decommissioned in 2026, although the Navy has examined ways the ship’s life could be extended if Navy leaders deem it necessary.

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