Cathay Pacific has advised passengers not to brush their teeth in water from aircraft washbasins. The airline is handing out bottled water to passengers after tests by the Hong Kong Port Health Office (PHO) found drinking water on 14 Cathay Pacific aircraft to be tainted.
That’s about 10% of the Cathay fleet. The PHO sampled water from 22 planes earlier this month as part of a routine examination. The tests found that almost two thirds of the samples – 14 out of 22, or 63% – failed to meet minimum hygiene standards.
The airline has now cleaned and disinfected water tanks in the affected aircraft, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported. Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering, which transports water to the aircraft, has cleaned all 11 of its vehicles.
“Under the water surveillance program of CX, water samples are collected from each aircraft every six months while cleansing and disinfection of water tanks are conducted every three months,” a spokesman for Hong Kong’s Department of Health stated.
“The 14 affected aircraft were disinfected from April to June 2015 during the routine disinfection program. We have reviewed the overall water collection and filling procedures for aircraft and investigations so far have not identified the source of contamination.
“During the investigations, the PHO collected five water samples and five environmental swabs from three water filling points, 19 water samples from 19 water tankers and ten water samples from five airlines for testing. Microbiological investigations of the samples are ongoing.”
Similar problems surface periodically on US airlines. A Wall Street Journal study in 2002 examined samples on 14 different flights and noted:
“The results of our water-quality snapshot: a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs. Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above US government limits.”
Written by Peter Needham