Philadelphia Drinking Water Contamination Concerns from Chemical Spill Resulted in Warning for Area Residents

The chemical spill is expected to reach the city's drinking water supply by Monday evening.

Philadelphia residents were warned not to drink the city’s tap water over the weekend, due to concerns that chemicals from a local factory may have entered the water supply. While the alert was rescinded late Sunday, after health officials confirmed the Philadelphia water was not yet contaminated, the chemicals may soon reach the drinking water of many area residents.

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) issued the warning about potential water contamination problems after a pipe burst at the Trinseo chemical plant on Friday night, releasing about 8,100 gallons of acrylic polymer solution, which is used to make latex. Other chemicals that may have been leaked include butyl acrylate and ethyl acrylate, used to make resins, plastics, and adhesives.

Concerns were immediately raised that the chemicals may enter the Philadelphia water supply, since the chemicals leaked into Otter Creek, which feeds into the Delaware River. Therefore, area residents were urged to stop drinking tap water, and only use bottled water.

The warning sent residents scrambling to stock up on supplies, clearing out store shelves in the Philadelphia area. However, an update was later issued Sunday afternoon by PWD indicating tap water was safe to drink through at least Monday night.

The update was based on hydraulic modeling, sampling results, and data from tap water from the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant.

Officials said the time was updated based on the how long it will take river water that entered the Baxter intakes to move through treatment and water mains into municipal water, meaning the contaminants had not yet reached local faucets. Therefore, Philadelphia residents are being urged to keep at least two days of drinking water on hand.

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Health regulators continue to test the water and monitor the spill zone using flyovers by state environmental officials. So far, testing has not shown the presence of chemicals in the drinking water, officials report.

At this time, health officials only expect residents would need to buy bottled water on Monday evening. Residents can also fill bottles or pitchers with tap water with no risk because the water currently available to residents was treated before the spill and can be used for bathing, cooking, and washing.

Residents of the Bucks County area can use the tidal spill map to view areas that may potentially be contaminated by the spill.


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