Contaminated Water Causes Serious Infection

Joseph O'Neill

Written by
— Updated on January 6, 2022

Maritime Expert WitnessThis case takes place in Pennsylvania and involves an employee of a large fishing vessel which had been operating in the Bering Sea for several weeks. The man was a deckhand on the vessel who had been employed by the fishing company for several years. At some point during this cruise, the employee developed a significant infection in a cut on his right ankle. The infection spread very rapidly, and proved to be resistant to treatment with antibiotics, and the man was taken off the ship to be treated in a hospital. Despite these measures, the infection necessitated the amputation of the man’s right leg below the knee. After the ship returned to seaport, an inspection revealed significant issues with the vessel’s potable water tanks. It is alleged that bacterial contamination of the potable water supply caused the bacteria to be introduced to the man’s wound while he was bathing, causing his infection.

 

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please explain why you're qualified to review this matter.
  • 2. Are you aware of specific standards or maintenance requirements for potable water systems on vessels like the one described above?

Expert Witness Response E-008049

I have had extensive experience with potable water supplies. It is used for drinking and cleaning water, and must be kept in very clean so no bacteria can travel into the water supply. When you dock at a port, the ship must connect a hose to an area in the port that supplies the ship with the clean water. The shore side also must check that the water is acceptable, and must be on par with the Code of Federal Regulations. However, it is also the ship’s duty to make sure that the potable water has been taken good care of to avoid any illnesses. I have traveled and received potable water from ports all over the world, including Hong Kong, South Africa, and areas in South America, and I understand the necessities of keeping it in regulatory standards. It seems that these standards were not adhered to on this vessel, and the contamination of the ship’s water was almost certainly due to the poor condition of the tanks, as was revealed during the on-shore inspection.

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