Having been stationed on 3 different aircraft carriers during my time in the Navy I can remember when $6.2 billion would buy US taxpayers a ship that had toilets that usually worked at least somewhere. True we had many issues in isolated areas of the ship often caused by clothing or some other type of foreign object being flushed but what is going on onboard the Navy’s newest carrier, the George H.W. Bush, is something else altogether.
The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier has a messy problem. Since deploying in May, the Norfolk, Va.-based carrier George H.W. Bush has grappled with widespread toilet outages, at times rendering the entire ship without a single working head.
But it’s no laughing matter. Sailors tell of combing the ship for up to an hour to find a place to do their business, if they can find one at all. Others have resorted to urinating in showers or into the industrial sinks in their work stations. Some men are using bottles and emptying the contents over the giant ship’s side, while some women are holding it in for so long that they are developing health problems, according to sources on the ship.
The article goes on to document that since the ship was commissioned in early 2009, the poor snipes in the Bush’s engineering department have spent over 10,000 man hours keeping the waste system operational including at least one 35 hour stretch where not one of the 400 plus toilets worked.
So what does the Navy have to say about their $6 billion dollar plumbing headache?
Instead of calling out the contractor who supplied the system that the Navy freely admits was designed with unusually narrow waste pipes, they blame the sailors on the USS Bush all while claiming that a 94% uptime for the system that has no back up is acceptable.
The Navy, in a written statement, acknowledged problems with the system since the ship was delivered in May 2009. Sailors have spent more than 10,000 man hours addressing the toilets’ vacuum system on this deployment, averaging roughly 25 calls per week for commode problems. Most problems were fixed within 24 hours, with some requiring just a few minutes of work, said a statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic, adding that the ship had a “94 percent availability of commodes” throughout the deployment.
AIRLANT said most issues occurred when inappropriate materials were flushed down the toilets. Sailors onboard the ship said that everything from feminine hygiene products to clothes have been unclogged from the network of pipes. When used as intended, the system works well and most problems can be fixed in minutes, AIRLANT said.
As a former sailor I can tell you that of course 94% availability is fine…as long as you don’t have to go during the other 6% and throw in a few 35 hour system wide outages and 94% doesn’t look as rosy. Even on the USS Midway, a 45 year old ship at the time I was stationed on her, these types of outages were unheard of but would at least be understandable. But on a 2 year old state of the art carrier?
Come on now…