A chemical spill into a tributary of the Delaware River has put nerves on edge in Philadelphia, although officials have walked back an initial alert urging residents to buy bottled water.
On Friday, a pipe broke at the Trinseo PLC chemical plant that sent about 8,100 gallons of acrylic polymer solution, a latex emulsion, into Otter Creek north of the city, according to The New York Times.
The creek flows into the Delaware River, which is tapped for drinking water by communities in four states that serve about 14 million people.
Philadelphia officials on Sunday stepped back fm suggestion residents consider using bottled water rather than tap water for drinking & cooking after chemical leaked into tributary of Delaware River, source of drinking water for 14M people across 4 states https://t.co/xPL4sv4koH
— Anna Núñez (@nunez_anna) March 27, 2023
After initially urging customers to buy water, leading to a run on stores, officials later Sunday said to hold off.
“If you want to store water, you should feel free to draw it from your tap, store it in a bottle, you can put in a pitcher, put it in your fridge,” said Michael Carroll, Philadelphia’s deputy managing director for transportation, infrastructure and sustainability. “There’s no need at this time for people to be rushing out and buying bottled water.”
“In a matter of days, the water in the Delaware should be OK,” Carroll said.
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According to a post by the Philadelphia Water Department, the city currently has enough water in its system that came before the spill to ensure that no water emergency will take place before 11:59 p.m. Monday.
“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 advisory said.
NO bottles of water left right now at Giant, after @PhiladelphiaGov said it is recommending residents use bottled water for drinking or cooking until further notice. More than 8,000 gallons of hazardous material spilled in a Bucks County creek near the Delaware River @6abc pic.twitter.com/uGiTM4xN4J
— Christie Ileto (@Christie_Ileto) March 26, 2023
Within the city, panic buying took place, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“A friend told me not to go to ShopRite because they were out of water. We were so scared,” Alison Allocco said as shoppers with carts full of water checked out.
On Sunday, Carroll said the city may be able to relax because a flyover showed no contamination of the river, according to CNN.
“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.
Cases of water would be helpful! City of Philadelphia is going back and forth on if it’s safe to drink our water. Stores are not completely sold out.
— Vicki Freeman (@vik1213) March 27, 2023
Trinseo PLC said on its website the spill “appears to be the result of an equipment failure.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said, according to CNN, it did not know how much of the 8,100 gallons entered the Delaware River, but said that fish and wildlife are not affected.