Philly officials say water is safe to drink after chemical spill, residents continue to buy bottled water

"PWD expects that there will continue to be no detectable levels of the spill at Philadelphia’s Delaware River intake by Wednesday or Thursday this week."

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC
Philadelphia residents were alerted to a chemical spill a few miles upstream in a key intake in the Delaware River on Monday, causing panic-buying of bottled water. 

In a Tuesday update, the Philadelphia Water Department said that tap water would be safe to drink and use through at least 11:59 pm on Wednesday, adding that "PWD expects that there will continue to be no detectable levels of the spill at Philadelphia’s Delaware River intake by Wednesday or Thursday this week."

On Monday, officials said, "the water that is currently available to customers has been treated and tested to confirm that it is safe to drink and use for bathing, cooking, and washing."

The spill "appears to be the result of equipment failure" at a Trinseo PLC plant that makes acrylic resins, CNN reports.

At least one of the chemicals in the river, butyl acrylate, is among the contaminants of concern identified in last month’s train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. 

Ethyl acrylate and methyl methacrylate also spilled into the Delaware River. The water would continue to be monitored, officials said.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney acknowledged residents’ anxieties, saying in a news release that officials understood "the legitimate concern that is felt by the public as the release of chemicals into our waterways can pose a major threat to our health and safety." He encouraged residents to store tap water as he remains "confident that there is no risk at this time."

Michael Carroll, the city’s deputy managing director for transportation, infrastructure and sustainability, said that communication was a "difficult balance" and that "everything we have done to communicate with the public has been done in the interest of both transparency and out of an abundance of care and caution to make sure our people are safe."

During a news conference on Monday, officials reiterated advice that residents should have three days’ worth of water on hand, but said it was possible that contaminants from the spill might not enter the city’s water supply at all. Philadelphia Water Commissioner Randy Hayman emphasized that testing takes time, and that "that’s why we have to be patient."

The Philadelphia Water Department provides water to more than "2 million people in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks counties," its website says. It is posting online updates regarding the spill.

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