updated 10/6/2009 2:31:01 PM ET 2009-10-06T18:31:01

U.S. government regulators on Tuesday issued final rules requiring airlines to test and disinfect the tap water served to passengers and used in plane lavatories, an attempt to remedy bacteria contamination found in onboard water.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

The Environmental Protection Agency rules set out schedules for how frequently airlines must flush and disinfect the water systems on planes and test for coliform bacteria.

Coliform are usually not harmful, but they are considered an indicator of the presence of disease-causing germs.

The schedules vary: Airlines that test water quality frequently do not have to disinfect and flush as often; those that test less often must disinfect and flush more frequently.

The rules apply only to tap water supplied through aircraft water systems, not bottled water.

The EPA determined five years ago that airlines weren't complying with drinking water regulations. The agency tested water from 327 planes, of which 15 percent tested positive for coliform. The agency said about 20 percent of the water tested didn't show any amount of chlorine — an indication it had not been treated.

Forty-five domestic airlines have already agreed to monitor their tap water quality and publicly report the results under a settlement with EPA.

The rule released Tuesday gives airlines up to 24 months before they have to comply with the new schedules.

The EPA estimates the cost of the new rules at nearly $7 million a year, or about a penny per ticket.

“This rule is a significant step forward in protecting people's health when they travel,” said Peter Silva, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Water. “EPA has taken this step to make sure the public has drinking water that meets standards, both in the air and on the ground.”

Officials for the Air Transport Association, which represents major air carriers, had no immediate comment.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments