Ever see a flight attendant drinking the brewed on-board coffee or tea? Of course not, they always bring their own Starbucks for the flight. Well, there’s a good reason for that and the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth has the full story:
NBC 5 Investigates has obtained new test results from the Environmental Protection Agency showing how often the drinking water served on commercial airline flights tests positive for bacteria. The numbers show, nine years after EPA launched a major effort to ensure the safety of drinking water on-board planes, the water may not be much cleaner than it was when EPA conducted sample tests in 2004. Now, new EPA data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request, shows in 2012, 12 percent of commercial airplanes in the U.S. had at least one positive test for coliform. That’s still just about one out of every 10 planes. “I would say that’s still a high percentage,” said Bill Honker, deputy director of the Water Quality Protection Division, EPA Region 6, in Dallas.
The EPA now requires airlines to test for coliform and E. coli on every airplane at least once year. If a plane tests positive with either bacteria, EPA requires airplanes to flush the tanks and re-test the water. While most airlines now serve bottled water on their beverage carts, many airlines still make coffee and tea with water that comes from a tank on-board. NBC 5 Investigates obtained photos, taken by the Food and Drug Administration inspectors at Texas airports. In some photos you can see slimy residue growing on the nozzles that supply airplane water. Dirty hoses can put bacteria in the tank, including coliform and E. coli.“There’s poop in the water if there’s E. coli in the water, and that’s not a good thing,” said Brenda Wiles, who manages a lab in Fort Worth that is certified to test aircraft drinking water.