Philadelphia: Still No Sign of Chemicals from Upriver Spill

March 29, 2023

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia water officials say they continue to see no sign of contamination following a chemical spill into the Delaware River upstream of the city and are confident that drinking water will be unaffected at least through Wednesday night.

Health officials in Bucks County, just north of Philadelphia, said Sunday that between 8,100 and 12,000 gallons (30,700 and 120,000 liters) of a water-based latex finishing solution spilled into the river late Friday due to a leak at the Trinseo Altuglas chemical facility in Bristol Township.

Officials said it is non-toxic to humans, and no known adverse health effects have been reported in the county.

Philadelphia officials say they have been testing samples from as many as a dozen locations, and contaminants related to the discharge haven’t been found so far. They announced Tuesday morning that the water in city taps will be unaffected until at least 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, based on the time it takes for water to be treated and reach customers.

The city says residents can continue to drink and use tap water with no risk.

A top city official has said any spill conditions would last no later than Thursday, and they may know by Wednesday night that the pollution has completely passed the city’s treatment plant. They plan to hold a public briefing Tuesday night, after the latest sampling results are in.

Announcements and an alert sent out Sunday were followed by a run on bottled water in Philadelphia stores that left many bare shelves and “No water” signs posted at some. If bottled water was unavailable, officials said, people could fill empty bottles with tap water.

Officials vowed to notify the public immediately if water quality sampling indicates a potential impact on the river water entering the Baxter Water Treatment Plant in northeast Philadelphia. Intakes to the plant were initially closed after the spill, but were later opened to maintain minimal water levels to avoid damage to equipment and to supply water for fire safety and other essential needs.

Residents of the city who live west of the smaller Schuylkill River – an area served by two other treatment plants – are unaffected.

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