April 13, 2024
Philadelphia tap water safe to drink — for now — after Delaware River chemical spill, officials say

Philadelphia tap water safe to drink — for now — after Delaware River chemical spill, officials say

Philadelphia residents can stop stocking up on bottled water for now.

City officials cleared the tap water as safe to drink and cook with through at least 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 27. But this safety update came after Philly residents were advised to use bottled water to drink and cook with earlier on Sunday, after a chemical spill in the Delaware River late Friday. 

The advisory to avoid drinking or cooking with tap water came during a press conference featuring representatives from Philadelphia’s water department and office of emergency management on Sunday morning. 

“Philadelphia Water Department customers in the city are recommended to use bottled drinking water beginning at 2:00 p.m. today until further notice out of an abundance of caution,” the city said Sunday, as reported by the local ABC affiliate.

In an update Sunday evening, the city said water “will remain safe to drink and use” at least through Monday, based on the time it takes for water to move through treatment systems. But because the plant took in new water overnight to maintain minimal levels, officials will need to retest the water Monday to determine its safety.

Michael Carrol, the deputy managing director for Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability (OTIS), confirmed that a chemical spill of a latex product in Bristol Township, Bucks County, late Friday night released contaminants into the Delaware River.

“‘We are notifying the public in the customer service area that they may wish not to drink or cook with tap water.’”

He said that contaminants “have not been found” in the drinking water at this time. But out of an abundance of caution, “we are notifying the public in the customer service area that they may wish not to drink or cook with tap water.” 

This is because “we cannot be 100% sure that there won’t be traces of these chemicals in the water throughout the afternoon,” he said earlier on Sunday. “We want the public to be aware so that people can consider switching to bottled water to further minimize any risk.” 

Carrol added that “the health risks are very low if present at all.” 

The Coast Guard estimated about 8,100 gallons of this latex finishing material was released when a pipe burst at Trinseo, a chemical plant in Bristol, as reported by the local NBC affiliate.

Here is a map of areas impacted by the chemical spill. 

And residents with more questions or concerns should check the Philadelphia Water Department’s website.

Local news outlets reported a run on bottled water around Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, with some shoppers posting pictures and videos of empty shelves on social media.

The Delaware River spill comes just over a month after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Half of the town of about 5,000 had to evacuate for days when responders intentionally burned toxic chemicals in some derailed cars to prevent an uncontrolled explosion, leaving residents with lingering health concerns. Government officials say tests haven’t found dangerous levels of chemicals in the air or water in the area, but rattled residents have questioned that assessment in the derailment’s aftermath.

More on MarketWatch:

How to determine if your drinking water is safe as EPA moves to restrict ‘forever chemicals’

World Water Day: A quarter of the globe has no access to safe drinking water

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