The fouling of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln’s drinking water late last month was caused by bilge water leaking into the ship’s potable water tanks, officials confirmed this week.

You don’t want to drink bilge water. It’s a mélange of fresh water, oil, chemicals, sludge, sea water and other unpotable fluids that accrue in the lowest space on a ship, according to Bright Hub Engineering.

An inspection of the affected potable water tanks that wrapped on Thursday revealed that bilge water was behind the stinky, cloudy water, Naval Air Forces said in a statement.

Specifically, bilge water entered one of the potable water tanks through a hole in a tank’s vent line, according to the command.

Lincoln sailors first noted the nasty drinking water on Sept. 21, while the ship was operating off California.

After testing the ship’s 26 potable water tanks, the affected tanks were isolated from the rest of the system, according to the command, and the odor and cloudiness abated by the next day.

“No confirmed cases of illness” had been reported among the crew due to the ship’s bilge-tainted drinking water, according to the command.

Lincoln’s commanding officer, Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, told her crew during a ship-wide address that the cloudy water “personally tastes like saltwater to me.”

A copy of her address was posted to the “Master at Arms Memes” Facebook page earlier this month.

The affected water tanks will be deep-cleaned and inspected during the ship’s ongoing maintenance period.

E. coli bacteria had also been found in the ship’s water on Sept. 24, but officials said that did not account for the odor and cloudiness of Lincoln’s water, which had abated by Sept. 22 after the affected tanks were isolated.

Further testing late last month by the California Department of Health showed the ship’s drinking water “was within drinking water standards for pH, turbidity, aluminum, copper, lead, sodium and hardness,” Naval Air Forces said.

E. coli is extremely common and mostly harmless, but can cause severe cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the Mayo Clinic.

News of the Lincoln’s water problems came after the carrier Nimitz suffered a leakage of jet fuel into its potable water system last month.

Navy officials have declared Nimitz’s system good to go after determining that the jet fuel had gotten into one of the ship’s 26 potable water tanks.

Nimitz returned to its pre-deployment cruise Oct. 2.

Investigations into the water problems aboard Nimitz and Lincoln continue.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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