E. coli bacteria was found in the potable water aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last month, but Navy officials said Friday that they do not believe that was the cause of the ship’s drinking water becoming cloudy and smelly a few weeks ago.

“There have been no confirmed cases of illness related to the ship’s water, but the Abraham Lincoln medical department continues to closely monitor their Sailors for any potential symptoms,” the Navy said in a statement Friday.

Crew first noticed cloudy, odorous water on Sept. 21 as the ship operated off southern California, according to Naval Air Forces officials.

All potable water tanks were tested the following day, and E. coli was found in three of the carrier’s 26 potable water tanks, according to a Friday statement.

Those tanks were isolated and secured from the potable water system, and the ship provided bottled water to sailors.

The smelly and cloudy water abated by Sept. 22, and officials said Friday the fouling of the water wasn’t related to the presence of E. coli.

Samples were sent to the California Department of Health for further testing, and results that came back Sept. 26 indicated “the water was within drinking standards for pH, turbidity, aluminum, copper, lead, sodium and hardness,” according to the Navy’s statement Friday.

The other potable water tanks being used by the crew have been tested and are clear of E. coli, according to the Navy, The affected tanks remain isolated and will be cleaned during an upcoming maintenance period.

E. coli bacteria is found throughout the environment, in food and in the guts of people and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most strains of the bacteria are harmless, but others can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, among other maladies, according to the CDC.

The Navy has not indicated whether the E. coli found in Lincoln’s water is of the harmful variety.

Lincoln returned to San Diego on Oct. 3 and has been hooked up to the municipal water supply, a standard practice when a ship is in port.

The carrier’s fouled water follows an incident last month where jet fuel got into the carrier Nimitz’s water supply.

Investigations into both incidents remain ongoing, according to officials, and further details have yet to be released.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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