The study found airplane water tanks may not be cleaned properly
A new report from the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center found that drinking water tanks on airplanes may be subject to poor maintenance. The survey polled 11 airlines about procedures surrounding water tanks.
The U.S. EPA aircraft drinking water rule requires water tanks to be cleaned only four times per year and relies on self-reporting from airlines, as reported by The New York Post. Furthermore, because of the time sensitive nature of airplanes, water tank cleaning may take a back burner.
“Planes come in, [and the tanks are] not being emptied and cleaned, because there is no time for that,” said Charles Platkin, a professor of nutrition and the executive director of the Food Policy Center. “The water tank is being filled on top [after] each usage. Whatever would be on the bottom stays there and sits there.”
According to Platkin, EPA tested airlines in 2004 and found 15% of aircraft’s water tanks tested positive for coliform. While some airlines, including Delta and United, reported the use of high-tech ozone disinfection at least quarterly, the results still are self-reported.
“They barely clean the planes in my opinion,” Platkin said. “I’m sure something that’s hidden like the water is something that’s not a huge priority.”
A spokesman for a trade group that represents the nation’s largest carriers responded that the airlines are “following rigorous sampling and management requirements, which include periodic disinfection and flushing of the aircraft water tanks on a schedule required by regulations,” as reported by The Los Angeles Times.
Platkin and his survey recommends opting for canned beverages for in-flight beverage service and using sanitizer in airplane restrooms rather than sink tap water.