U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- Twenty-four airlines have signed agreements
with the government subjecting the carriers to fines of up to $27,500
if they fail to adopt tougher safeguards for monitoring and
disinfecting the drinking water served to passengers.
The deals with 11 major domestic airlines and 13 smaller airlines
are intended to reduce disease-carrying bacteria in drinking water on
planes, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
An EPA investigation last year found total coliform bacteria in 15
percent of the 327 airplanes the agency reviewed at 19 airports.
Total coliform is usually harmless, but it is an indicator that other
disease-causing organisms could be in the water.
The administrative order says the airlines have failed to fully
comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Failure to comply in the
future could mean penalties of up to $27,500 for each violation.
While most of its members signed the agreement, the Air Transport
Association said drinking water found on airlines is generally as
safe as the municipal water sources that supply it.
"We think the drinking water on aircraft is safe to drink and has
been," said Katherine Andrus, a spokeswoman for the airlines' trade
group. But she said the airlines, while seeking improvements, partly
wanted to set the record straight.
"It will generate a tremendous amount of monitoring data, which we
believe will establish that there is no systematic problem with the
aircrafts' drinking water," she said. "We don't think that EPA's
sample results provided enough meaningful data to draw any
The agreements require the airlines to regularly monitor their
aircraft by collecting total coliform samples from at least one
galley and one bathroom from every aircraft at least once a year. At
least 25 percent of an airlines' fleet must be monitored every three
The airlines must provide, within 45 days, details of all their
drinking water operations for each aircraft, and then regularly
disinfect those water systems and water transfer equipment. Each of
the airlines signed a separate 60-page agreement with EPA.
Disinfecting the water systems must be done at least once every
three months. Water trucks, carts, cabinets and hoses must be cleaned
at least once a month. After disinfection, airlines must wait until
after a day of flight services before checking for bacteria again.
Test results showing total coliform and other bacteria such as E.
coli or fecal coliform that cause diarrheal illnesses must be
reported to the EPA no later than 5 p.m. EST of the following
The agreements cover AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, Aloha
Airlines, American Airlines, America West, ATA Airlines, Champion
Air, Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia, Falcon Air
Express, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Miami Air
International, Midwest Airlines, North American Airlines, Northwest
Airlines, Pace Airlines, Ryan International Airlines, Spirit
Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, USA 3000
Airlines, and World Airways.
The agency said it was still negotiating agreements with Omni Air
International, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest airlines.
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