The aircraft carrier Nimitz got back underway Sunday after it was sidelined in San Diego in recent weeks due to contaminated water found in the ship’s water system, a casualty that Navy officials say may have sickened more than 10 sailors.
Jet fuel was first found in the Nimitz’s potable water system Sept. 16 during a pre-deployment cruise in the Pacific Ocean, and the ship detoured to Naval Air Station North Island so it could undergo a targeted flushing starting on Sept. 17.
“While in port in San Diego, the ship’s crew was connected to San Diego water supply while the ship’s potable water system was flushed with approximately one million gallons of fresh water,” 3rd Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said in a statement. “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.”
The carrier departed San Diego to rejoin the rest of its carrier strike group and to complete its Composite Training Unit Exercise ahead of its upcoming deployment.
“Nimitz got underway after all tests came back [within] limits and the potable water was determined to be safe for the crew,” Robertson said in the statement.
On Thursday, the Navy said five sailors reported illnesses they believe resulted from the jet fuel found in the carrier’s water system. That number rose to 11 as of Sunday.
“Since the incident occurred, eleven Sailors reported symptoms that could be attributed to JP-5 ingestion to Nimitz’s medical department,” Robertson said. “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.”
According to Robertson, the source of the jet fuel leak originated in one of the 26 potable water tanks on board.
“The health, safety, and wellbeing of Nimitz Sailors remains our top priority,” Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, said in a statement. “I want to thank all base, local, and federal health and environmental agencies who have worked to ensure we met and exceeded all testing, regulations, and purity standards in order to safely return this warship to sea. I also want to acknowledge the Sailors and leaders on board Nimitz who worked tirelessly and took the necessary action to keep the crew safe.”
The carrier concluded its last deployment in February 2021. The ship went on to complete a maintenance availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington following the 11-month deployment.