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NAPLES, Italy — The Navy Exchange will give away bottled water purchased by the Navy to servicemembers, employees and families living off base starting this week.

The Navy wouldn’t confirm the purchase or distribution of free water, but officials said bottled drinking water would be a precautionary measure for residents whose home tap water showed excess bacteria levels in recent testing.

Navy Exchange manager Christina Giordano said Thursday that the NEX will give out the water starting this week. She referred further questions to Navy Region Europe.

Navy Region Europe spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Snyder said officials were unaware the Navy had actually purchased any bottled water to distribute to off-base residents. There is a short-term plan under consideration to distribute water to families living off base, Snyder said, but reiterated that no decisions had been made as of Friday.

"Since the water in about one third of the (off-base) homes we tested had bacteria excedences, leadership decided that bottled water would be a precautionary measure until the health assessment was completed," Snyder said. The health assessment, begun in February, is estimated to take 18 months to complete.

Bottled water is one of the Navy’s "mitigation strategies" for residents living off-base that may be exposed to contaminated water in their homes. The Navy is currently conducting a health assessment on air, soil and water quality due to concerns over the decades-long trash crisis in the city.

Earlier this month, as part of the assessment, the Navy completed water testing on 160 off-base homes in Naples, 48 of which tested positive for total and fecal coliform bacteria. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web site, the total coliform group is a large collection of different kinds of bacteria. Fecal coliforms are types of total coliform that mostly exist in feces.

Following the test results, the Navy advised all off-base residents to use bottled water for cooking, drinking and brushing their teeth.

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