Morale: Left Without A Pot To Piss In


November 21, 2011:  It seemed like a good idea at the time. The U.S. Navy's newest Nimitz class aircraft carrier, USS George H W Bush (named after a World War II carrier aviator and former president) has a new plumbing system to move the crap put into 423 toilets and urinals (in 130 "heads", which is what sailors call bathrooms). This was to be an improvement over older sewage disposal equipment. The system as installed in the USS Bush has not worked well, and six percent of the time some or all of the toilets are not working (will not flush). This has caused much unhappiness on the carrier.

The navy blames it on sailors trying to flush large objects (tampons, clothing, socks, paper and such). That sort of thing is always a problem, but on the Bush, the new plumbing system causes clusters of toilets (sometimes half the ship, or all of the ship) to stop flushing when there is a blockage. And there have been a lot of blockages, far more than in earlier systems. Since the Bush entered service three years ago, over 10,000 man-hours have been spent fixing the toilets (or, more precisely, finding out where, in the 400 kilometers of plumbing, the jam is and clearing it.)

The navy says it is working on the problem, and that the toilets are available 94 percent of the time. But that means six percent of the time the toilets are not working. And in one epic failure, the entire ship was without a working toilet for 34 hours. For the crew, this is not acceptable. The 5,000 sailors on board have wasted over a hundred thousand man hours looking for some place to pee or take a dump. Much time is now spent fretting over whether to skip a meal or a drink of water, because the heads were not working, or were not expected to be.

The same "vacuum" system is installed in destroyers and large amphibious ships (that look like small carriers) without these problems. The navy and the vacuum system manufacturer refuse to comment on what the cause, and solution, for the problem should be. That has not helped morale on the Bush either, leaving the sailors without a pot (or head) to piss in.



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