One of the basic warnings about air travel is this: Don’t drink the water from the plane! While there are few if any reports of anyone actually getting sick from drinking airplane water, it’s been widely reported that onboard water tanks are difficult to clean. You’d be hard pressed to find a flight attendant who would touch the stuff, let alone drink it, even if it is in the plane’s hot coffee. Many airlines post signs in lavatories discouraging passengers from drinking from the faucet.
The smartest way to drink water is to get a bottle or a glass of it from a flight attendant.
And these days, that bottle of water may or may not be free. On low-cost airlines, you might have to ante up a couple of bucks for a small bottle. Don’t miss: Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for bottle of water
But now a Kentucky-based water disinfection company called AquiSense Technologies has come up with a method that it says could allow air travelers to drink from the airplane tap without worry.
The company says airlines are quite correct to keep passengers from drinking tap water, citing an EPA study which found that “water tanks in commercial flights had consistent bacteria and debris issues,” according to AquiSense’s Mitch Hansen.
“The study concluded that these tanks have residual bacteria and sediment even after the system is flushed with disinfection chemicals. Once a small amount of bacteria is present in the system it can easily grow and spread,” he said. “When a system is flushed it is common for small pathogen-harboring particulates and sediment to remain.” And some 15 percent of aircraft water tanks tested positive for Coliform bacteria.
Attempts with various methods to eliminate the problem – carbon or ceramic filters, treatment with chemicals like chlorine, and ultraviolet lighting systems based on mercury-vapor lamps – all have problems that make them impractical or ineffective for treating aircraft water tanks, the company said. Conventional UV sterilization is dangerous because the fragile UV lights contain mercury, which if damaged, could contaminate drinking water.
Aquisense touting a new technique it developed that relies on ultraviolet light produced by sturdier LEDs (light emitting diodes) that meet the space and weight constraints of airlines and can handle the shocks of hard landings. “The small size and instant on/off capabilities mean this [LED] technology can be placed near the water dispensing point, such as a sink or galley faucet, and switched-on only when water is flowing,” AquiSense said. “Disinfecting the water right before it reaches a user blocks contamination coming from the piping and diminishes the need for residual disinfection chemicals.”
AquiSense said its method is currently being tested for use on the International Space Station. Its next big challenge could be convincing airlines that it works and that passengers will agree to drink from the tap instead of the bottle– it’s estimated that each water treatment unit built to airline specs is $2,000-$3,000. And if they’re making money peddling bottled water on the plane, that could be a hard sell.
Nonetheless, a company spokesperson tells TravelSkills that the company is currently working with “aerospace industry solution providers” and that test units will be in the air in 2017.
Do you drink airplane water? Feel bad about all those plastic bottles you leave behind? Leave your comments below.
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