WASHINGTON – New water quality inspections on airliners were initiated Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency (search) in response to the discovery of coliform bacteria (search) in the drinking water of one in every eight planes it tested.
The agency said it will randomly test 169 domestic and international passenger aircraft at 14 airports throughout the United States and will publish the results in January.
In addition, EPA announced that 12 major airlines have agreed to conduct more tests of their own on aircraft drinking water and disinfection procedures. The agreement also requires that the drinking water systems aboard planes be flushed every three months.
The increased random inspections by government officials are in accordance with "commitments from U.S. passenger airlines to implement new aircraft water testing and disinfection protocols," EPA said.
In August and September, the EPA tested drinking water aboard 158 randomly selected domestic and international passenger aircraft and found that 12.6 percent did not meet federal standards.
Twenty of the planes that were tested -- which ranged from small commuter aircraft and jumbo jets -- tested positive for total coliform bacteria, signaling the possible presence of other harmful bacteria. Two planes tested positive for E. coli bacteria (search), which can cause gastrointestinal illness if it is severe enough.
EPA officials have advised passengers whose immune systems are compromised to avoid drinking water from airplane galleys or lavatories