Audit: Unclogging Navy Ship Toilets Costs $400K Per Flush

(CN) – Backed-up toilets on two U.S. Navy ships will cost $400,000 per acid flush to fix, according to a government watchdog report that outlines the costs of poor planning.

The U.S. Navy recently installed mint condition toilets and sewage systems on two of its newer, Virginia-based aircraft carriers —the USS Gerald R. Ford and USS George H.W. Bush.

The USS John S. McCain (AP Photo)

According to the Government Accountability Office report that was requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the sewage systems are similar to those on commercial aircrafts and are equipped to handle a large amount of solid material.

But a problem arose when the ships’ systems increased in scale for a crew of over 4,000 people and the toilets began to repeatedly clog.

“To address unexpected and frequent clogging of the system, the Navy has determined that it needs to acid flush the CVN 77 and 78’s sewage system on a regular basis, which is an unplanned maintenance action for the entire service life of the ship,” GAO officials wrote of the two aircraft carriers.

According to fleet maintenance officials who were among those interviewed for the report, each single acid flush costs about $400,000.

Making the full cost impact difficult to quantify, the Navy has yet to determine how often the acid flushes will need to be repeated. Also currently unknown, according to the report, is exactly how many ships will need to undergo this treatment.

To research potential unexpected maintenance costs, the GAO had interviewed operators and maintainers for the shipbuilding programs, asking them to discuss problems they encountered across multiple ships.

The GAO, a nonpartisan auditing and investigative agency that reports to Congress,  also verified the problems with “available Navy data on system reliability and equipment failures” to create a list of additional costs that may be required.

The total list of 150 problems compiled by the GAO for the report leaves out day-to-day costs and only includes those stemming from risks that were not previously identified, evaluated or mitigated by the shipbuilding program offices.

“The Navy has delivered warships—such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines—to its fleet over the past 10 years that require more effort to sustain than initially planned,” the report states. “GAO found that it would cost the Navy $4.2 billion to correct just the 30 percent of these problems for which the Navy had data on estimated repair costs.”

In addition to clogged toilets, some of the other issues identified in the report include elevators on separate ships that are too small to carry necessary goods between decks, degrading pipes and issues sustaining protective hulls on submarines.

According to the report, the estimated costs for six Navy shipbuilding programs increased by more than $130 billion from the initial estimate to the most recent one.

“This is largely because the Navy cost estimators based their initial estimates for the shipbuilding programs in our review on unproven sustainment assumptions without assessing the potential cost risk of the assumptions,” the report states.

The GAO made 11 recommendations to the Department of Defense and the Navy that mainly pertain to creating requirements that head off issues like the Virginia ships’ plumbing problem as soon as the vessels are acquired.

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