Frequent Questions

What is EPA doing about the problems with aircraft water quality?

EPA has met with the airline industry many times to ensure that they are aware of the problem. EPA has also completed an Agreement in Principle with the industry to increase monitoring of aircraft water systems and ensure that in the event of contamination, contingency plans are immediately implemented. Based on testing by EPA in both rounds of testing, EPA noted that the data showed 15% of the aircraft sampled had total coliform contamination. As a response to these findings, EPA has initiated several actions to ensure that airline water is as safe as any other public drinking water supply. At the present time, EPA is working to finalize an Administrative Order on Consent with each airline. The orders will require each airline to complete testing of their entire fleet within a period of twelve months and to submit a report to EPA with detailed findings. In addition, EPA has accelerated rule-making process to develop regulations specific to water onboard aircraft. At the present time, EPA is working collaboratively with other federal agencies that have oversight responsibilities over the industry to develop a rule that will ensure safe drinking water on all aircraft. Since EPA has not determined the actual sources of contamination, more study and evaluation will be necessary. In the meantime, EPA has continued to test aircraft and has deployed inspectors around the nation?s airports to sample aircraft water systems. In 2004, EPA sampled 327 aircraft and notified the airlines of the findings. When sampling identified total coliform in the water of domestic aircraft, that aircraft was disinfected and retested to ensure that the disinfection was effective. In instances where foreign flag aircraft tested positive for total coliform, those airline companies were notified of the positive test result and advised to disinfect and retest the aircraft. EPA will continue to update its information and advice to the traveling public as soon as new information is available.
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