Lawsuit Claims American Airlines Workers Use Water Cooler Jugs To Ferry “Blue Juice” To Airplane Toilets

Photos from the lawsuit: On the left, a worker fills a jug with blue juice using a hose that should be hooked into the bottom of the plane; Right, a worker dumps blue juice in an airplane lavatory.

Photos from the lawsuit: On the left, a worker fills a jug with blue juice using a hose that should be hooked into the bottom of the plane; Right, a worker dumps blue juice in an airplane lavatory.

Anyone who’s ever been in an airplane lavatory has probably noticed that the water in the toilet often isn’t clear — it’s blue, because of a cleaning chemical airlines use to keep the facilities as fresh as possible for the large numbers of travelers who will pass through the bathroom during a flight. But a new lawsuit claims American Airlines isn’t servicing its toilets properly at Philadelphia International Airport, and instead of fixing a valve used to pump cleaning chemicals into airplane toilets, it has workers allegedly carting around water cooler jugs filled with the so-called “blue juice.”

In a lawsuit filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Please this week, five American Airlines workers say that the practice of using the water cooler jugs to carry blue juice and returning them to break areas and other spots for the water company to pick up is exposing people to poison, reports Courthouse News.

“Choosing profits over safety, and literally poison chemicals over logic, reason, or human empathy, American Airlines has knowingly contaminated the airport, and workplace of plaintiffs, with toxins and bio-toxins ranging from poisonous chemicals to human airplane lavatory waste in the form of solid fecal particulate,” the complaint says.

Here’s how the bathroom servicing goes down, according to an appendix [PDF] with photos that was filed along with the lawsuit:

American Airlines directs its Lavatory Service employees to use Deer Park/Nestle 5 gallon jugs for filling with toxic chemical to be put in airplane toilet. The chemical is supposed to be pumped into the plane from the Lavatory Truck to an intake valve on the bottom of the plane. Because many planes have broken intake mechanisms, which have not been repaired in five (5) years, workers are required to fill Deer Park/Nestle bottles with the chemical, and then to walk them up the steps of the airplane (4 times- one for each toilet on the plane) to dump the chemicals into the toilets. When this task is done, and because the bottles are contraband on the tarmac, American Airlines managers ensure the bottles are put back into break rooms to be picked up with other empties by Deer Park/Nestle.

And although the jugs are cleaned out before they’re put back into circulation in water coolers, the plaintiffs say some of the chemical sticks to the insides, possibly exposing anyone drinking from them to poison cleaning chemicals. This has been going on since 2010, the complaint alleges, during which time workers have filled around 15,000 5-gallon jugs with the toxic “blue juice.”

Some jugs end up getting splashed with fecal matter while riding along in the trucks that drain human waste from airplanes, the complaint says, which is then tracked around all over the place.

“In addition to the poisoning of the Deer Park/Nestle products, the same practices lead to spread of fecal matter all over the tarmac, into storm drains, in the break rooms, in the aircraft catering service area, and inside the airport, to the derogation of the public health and safety,” the lawsuit alleges.

This is all part of American’s plan to save money instead of fixing broken equipment, the workers claim.

“The practice of poisoning Deer Park/Nestle Five Gallon jugs was created all so that American Airlines did not have to spend money fixing broken valves and other parts on an aging fleet, and all so that American Airlines did not have to spend money purchasing appropriate equipment to do the job,” the complaint states.

These alleged cost-cutting measures mean that the airline has built profits partly “upon fraudulent and literally poisonous foundations.”

“The foregoing practices create a vector for disease at the Philadelphia International Airport,” the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages and injunction, alleging public nuisance, fraud and civil conspiracy.

A spokesperson for American Airlines told Courthouse News that the lawyer who filed the complaint has a history with these kinds of complaints, saying he’s “brought several lawsuits against the company over the years that we found to be frivolous and that were ultimately dismissed.”

“But we, of course, take any allegations surrounding our employees and customer service very seriously and will fully investigate these latest accusations. We are proud of our 8,300 PHL-based employees and are 100 percent committed to serving the citizens of Philadelphia,” the spokesman said.

Nestle/Deer Park is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The company told Consumerist in a statement that it recently became aware of the third-party lawsuit, and it’s “thoroughly investigating the allegations.” If they’re true, “it’s unacceptable,” a spokesman said.

“Our number one priority is the health and safety of our customers and the quality of our products. The company has a rigorous testing and continuous quality monitoring process for all of our products including our 5 gallon bottles,” the statement reads. “We have industry-leading product safety measures in place to ensure our bottled water meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements. While we have complete confidence in our quality processes and the products we produce, as a precautionary measure, we are taking steps to ensure that no bottles from this customer are reused until this is resolved.”

Workers Assail American Airlines Over Toxic Toilet Water Practices [Courthouse News]