Poisoned Water: How a Navy Ship Dumped Fuel and Sickened Its Own Crew

If any of us did this, we would be in deep shit, but when the navy does it they get promoted.


They dump oil (fuel) over the side every time they fill up! Must be nice for rules to not apply.


Is this another attempt at “truthful hyperbole”?

The US Navy nor any other US government ship has ever said they would abide by any rules that commercial vessels have to abide by. They say they will strive to but no promise made. They ARE the government and silly things like OSHA, EPA etc don’t apply.


Wasn’t there a huge thread on here a few months ago about another Navy ship getting fuel in the water. In that case there was a rumor that the fresh water and fuel systems were connected and setting valves wrong would dump fuel in the water or vice versa.
In this case it seems they dumped fuel off one side and sucked it up into the water maker on the other side.

As reported by Maritime Executive: " …the discharge from Boxer happened while the ship was stationary."

Not just an environmental crime but another example of technical ignorance and brainless leadership of unthinking and unquestioning uniformed cattle. How was this not an example of an illegal order? It was an order that created a hazard to the ship’s crew and its loss of mission availability.

This is right up there with the morons who plugged the tell-tale of a coolant pump on another Navy ship a few years ago and destroyed a main propulsion engine.


Just because an order is stupid doesn’t make it unlawful. And as our instructor in boot camp told us “Pray to God you are never given an unlawful order, because no matter what happens after that you personally are screwed.”

No but this does:

As illustrated by the Nimitz episode: " The most recent incident occurred aboard USS Nimitz last September while the carrier was operating off California. The crew reported a foul taste and smell in the drinking water, and 11 crewmembers fell ill with symptoms of fuel ingestion. The ship returned to port so that its water system could be flushed with municipal tap water."


No, I seriously don’t think it does. Might lead to reprimand or punishment for the person giving the order, but doesn’t relieve subordinates of the duty to follow it. But IANAL, and certainly not a military lawyer.

What I think might have given grounds to disobey the petty officer was his apparent disregard of a standing order for approval from higher up before initiating the overboard discharge. And the answer to that would be up to the military judge trying the case of disobedience.

"Compensated ballast tanks are used for fuel storage and to maintain stability on some
classes of Navy vessels. As fuel is consumed while underway, water is taken in by the vessel to
maintain a nearly constant total fluid weight in the vessel. Compensated fuel ballast tanks are
maintained full of either fuel, seawater, or a combination of both. When both fuel and seawater
are present in the same tank, the fuel floats on top of the seawater because the fuel is less dense.
These tanks are only completely emptied of all fluid (seawater and fuel) during in-tank
maintenance or modification work that is not part of the ships’ normal operation. "

So, chief, you want me to pump fuel overboard, not to mention while we are making water and not making way? Will you please put that in writing.

OPNAV M-5090.1 25 Jun 2021


Yeah, in writing would be good and certainly would get your disagreement across, though I can’t find an actual right to demand it as such.

I’ve read some decent chunks of OPNAV M-5090 now, and that notwithstanding I would hate to be a PO3 counting on the judge to rule in my favor on an Article 92 charge.

At my day job “Put that in an email” takes care of about 90% of the stupid and/or illegal ideas people come up with. Not so hot on the idea with your name attached to it forever now are you :roll_eyes:


It is a very grey area about it being illegal, no pun intended.
Navy ships and aircraft are “public” in the sense of being owned by the Government. As such the rules the rest of us follow only sort-of apply sometimes. I have Navy pilot friends who cannot legally fly the airplanes I fly, they have no civilian pilot’s license. If they get a violation from the FAA, it goes to the Navy who can ignore it if they wish to.
On the water I cannot legally turn off my AIS and nav lights and go roaring up to someone at midnight full speed and almost give them a heart attack, but it sure didn’t seem to stop the CG from doing it one night :scream:
Shitheads wanted to know if I had seen a boat in distress and just wanted a “practice intercept” :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

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I stand by my question…

The insinuation was made that the Navy dumps oil (fuel) over the side everytime they fill up! The article gave to support the aforementioned claim stated the “Compensated ballast tanks are used for fuel storage and to maintain stability on some classes of Navy vessels.”
The classes of vessels that use compensated ballast tanks are:
CG 47 (Ticonderoga) Class cruisers - 27 built, 17 active
DD 963 (Spruance) Class - 31 built, 30 retired
DDG 993 (Kidd) Class - 4 built, all 4 transferred foreign
DDG 51 (Arleigh Burke) Class - 71 built, 71 active
Non-conventional submarines are mentioned but they do not discharge per the article.

The above ships do not constitute all the ships in the US Navy. I think it is safe to say the rest of the fleet does not dump fuel every time they bunkered. I can say that with confidence at least on the combatant I briefly served on.

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For LA class, the compensating water system keeps the diesel tank full to make up for consumption. It is not discharged until the tank is refilled. The water is not pumped over the side (at least we didn’t in Pearl Harbor in the early 2000’s).

This system is not for ballast/trimming purposes.

Don’t forget, all of these USS vessels have Machinery Space bilge eductors fed from the firemain for damage control purposes.

I have seen on more than occasion, a USS vessel send bilges directly overboard as they would not process through the OWS/OCM.

Also several hundreds, if not thousands, of gals of DFM pour over the side due to a cracked pipe in a FO tank.

Not to mention, the hose blowouts and disconnect spillage during UNREPs.

All unreported, no one ever cared.

The USN can hardly drive a ship without crashing into something. They can’t maintain or operate anything without extensive contractor support. Environmental compliance is the least of their woes.


Just goto NOB Norfolk or SD and watch the contractors stream up every gangway daily.

The Navee harps how it is distressed with vessels going on 6 month deployments once every 2 years.
They then return for months or years for refits.

I worked with a lot of USN vets from the last 30 years and the sentiment was “not my Navy anymore.”

There are fundamental flaws in the way the USN works and it is becoming increasingly pathetic and apparent.


Just a couple of stories that popped up in my head when I first started reading this topic.

The first had to do with the time I was 3rd on a ship on a trip to the west coast of South America. It was in the late 70’s. We were cruising along and sailed through a school of anchovies. (At least that’s what they looked like when we pulled the remains from various strainers.) The evaporators were up and running discharging to our potable water tanks. It didn’t take long for the water in those tanks to smell and taste like ground up fish. It was so bad the tanks had to be dumped.

The second had to do when I was sailing as 2A/E. It was 1980 on a trip to the Far East. One evening the Chief told me to take drag on the fuel oil settlers and pump about 25 barrels over the side. He wanted to make sure we didn’t have any water accumulating in those tanks. While I didn’t say anything, I had a problem with that order. Instead, on my morning watch I cracked the low suction to the fuel oil service pumps. There was some water in those tanks and things got interesting for a bit. Fortunately, we never lost the fires and eventually everything settled out back to normal. I logged the time we ran on the low suctions. I guess the Chief was satisfied… he never asked me to do it again.

I reported to USS MILLER (FF1091) in Sardinia as the new CHENG in May 1976. She was in the latter part of a six-month MED Deployment. She had also deployed to the MED the first half of 1975. We were back in Norfolk about three months, doing support ops in the VACAPES, when we received notification that we would deploy again Jan-July 1978, to STANAVFORLANT. It was tough on the ship and the crew to deploy Jan-July three years in a row.

Not the same USN these days. But I’ve been retired for almost 30 years.