Philadelphia officials say drinking water remains safe for now after a chemical spill in the Delaware River

by 24USATVMarch 27, 2023, 4:20 a.m. 17

The City of Philadelphia says it is now confident tap water from the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant will remain safe to drink until at least 11:59 p.m. Monday following a chemical spill in the Delaware River.

At a news conference late Sunday afternoon, city officials said they had not found any contamination in Philadelphia’s water supply and there would be no disruptions to schools or city services on Monday.

“There has not been any contamination in the Philadelphia water system,” Mike Carroll, the city’s deputy managing director for transportation, infrastructure and sustainability, told reporters.

“We have enough water to sustain a safe use for drinking, cooking – all purposes – through till at least 11:59 p.m., Monday, March 27,” Carroll said. “The potential for contamination is diminishing over time.”

The Philadelphia Police Department and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had also conducted a flyover across the Delaware River and saw no visual evidence of contamination plumes, Carroll said.

“In this case, because we were talking about essentially ingredients that go into latex paint, we would have been able to see a kind of white plume under the river surface,” he said.

The city earlier sent out mobile phone push alerts recommending area residents use of bottled water from 2 p.m.

“Contaminants have not been found in the system at this time but this is out of caution due to a spill in the Delaware River,” the alerts shared with CNN said.

The alert also provided a link to a community website for updates.

But an updated statement Sunday afternoon the city said new hydraulic modeling and sampling results showed “there is no need to buy water at this time.”

“This updated time is based on the time it will take river water that entered the Baxter intakes early Sunday morning to move through treatment and water mains before reaching customers,” the statement reads. “The water that is currently available to customers was treated before the spill reached Philadelphia and remains safe to drink and use for bathing, cooking and washing.”

A ShopRite store in South Philadelphia said it was selling out of bottled water before 2 p.m. Sunday after the alerts were sent out.

When the store is able to restock shelves, it plans to limit cases of bottled water to three per customer, a store worker told CNN.

Carroll said in a statement issued earlier on Sunday that the contamination occurred Friday and involved a latex product that spilled along a Delaware River tributary in Bristol Township, Bucks County.

“As has been reported, on Friday night a chemical spill occurred in Bristol Township, Bucks County which released contaminants into the Delaware River,” Carroll said. “The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) became aware of this through the Delaware Valley Early Warning System (EWS) and has been evaluating the situation since that time to understand potential impacts to the public. Although early indications have not revealed contamination, we are still monitoring the situation and conducting testing.”

Trinseo PLC, which owns the facility where the spill occurred, said in a statement on its website Sunday it “appears to be the result of equipment failure.”

The latex product chemical spill happened on Friday evening at a facility in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which manufactures acrylic resins, according to the statement.

The company estimated 8,100 gallons of solution – which is half water and half latex polymer – was spilled.

“The latex emulsion is a white liquid that is used in various consumer goods. Its pigmentation makes the water-soluble material visible in surface water,” the statement reads.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said an “unknown amount” of the spilled product had entered the Delaware River. Water sampling is ongoing and contaminants have not been detected at drinking water intakes, the department said in a Sunday statement.

Fish and wildlife are said to have not been affected, according to the statement.

“Since the first hours after the incident, the Department of Environmental Protection has been at the facility where the spill originated and will be staying until there is no longer a threat to those impacted in Bucks and Philadelphia counties,” the department’s acting secretary Rich Negrin said in the statement. “We are working closely with our partners to monitor the spread of the contaminants and we will hold the responsible party accountable.”

On its website, the Philadelphia Water Department said it provides water to more than “2 million people in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks counties.”


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