A group of House lawmakers, including four members of the California delegation and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, are demanding answers and accountability from the Navy regarding an incident on the USS Boxer. A Military.com report revealed that the ship's crew was sickened when fuel was intentionally dumped into the ocean.
The lawmakers have written a letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, urging him to hold those responsible for the incident accountable and requesting a briefing on the Navy's response to the contamination incident in 2016. The report by Military.com included interviews with personnel on the ship at the time and documents obtained from sources and the Navy.
According to the report, sailors in the USS Boxer's engineering department were ordered to dump fuel into the ocean, a procedure that requires the ship to keep moving to prevent contaminated water from entering the drinking water system. However, in this case, the ship stopped, causing the crew's water supply to become tainted. The Navy publicly acknowledged the contamination following the report.
The ship was ill-prepared to handle the contamination, leading to a shortage of bottled water. Crew members were initially told that the water was safe, but eventually had no choice but to drink, bathe, and cook with it. The lawmakers are demanding details on the contamination and an explanation for why it took the Navy seven years to acknowledge it.
The USS Boxer incident is not an isolated case, as the Navy has also acknowledged water contamination on other aircraft carriers. The lawmakers want to know what steps the Navy is taking to prevent similar incidents in the future and whether they are working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to address disability claims of affected individuals.
The lawmakers emphasize the importance of protecting the health and quality of life of service members and ensuring comprehensive healthcare. They also express concerns about the potential long-term health effects experienced by the sailors and Marines involved in the incident.
Military.com is not aware of any disciplinary action taken against the leaders involved in the incident. The ship's commander has retired, and the senior enlisted sailor who ordered the fuel dumping has also left the service. Other officers implicated in the incident are still in the Navy.
The lawmakers highlight that incidents like this not only endanger the lives of service members but also undermine trust and jeopardize recruitment and retention efforts.