Washington, Oct. 20 (Reuters): Most US airlines have agreed to regularly monitor water on their planes after some samples taken from commercial aircraft last year were found unsafe to drink, the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday.
It said 11 major airlines and 13 smaller ones reached agreement with the agency to routinely analyse on-board water supplies for bacteria and other contaminants and disinfect aircraft water systems serving galleys and bathrooms.
Airlines will also have to check equipment that delivers water to their planes. Carriers are to report problems to regulators.
Previously, airlines were not required to monitor their water supplies but they disinfected their systems during periodic maintenance checks.
“The water passengers drink on a plane should be as safe as the water they drink at home,” said Ben Grumbles, an EPA assistant administrator.
“The settlements show that it’s time to fine-tune and upgrade EPA’s water regulations to specifically address airplanes.”
Katherine Andrus, assistant general counsel for the industry’s leading trade group, the Air Transport Association, said the industry had concerns about the small sample size of the 2004 EPA tests, the accuracy of results and testing protocols.
“Now we’re looking at comprehensive monitoring data that should serve as a good baseline in developing a regulation,” Andrus said.
The agency said it would continue to monitor water quality on US commercial aircraft while it develops permanent guidelines.
Most carriers have signed agreements. Negotiations continue with JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines and agreements are expected with them.
EPA said passengers with compromised immune systems can request bottled drinks, which most airlines carry.
Last year, more than 30 aircraft in an EPA investigation of US and internationally based airlines had water systems contaminated with coliform, or fecal bacteria,which by itself may not pose a health risk.
But fecal bacteria in drinking water indicates that other disease-causing organisms, or pathogens, may be present.