How Philadelphia’s drinking water was threatened by chemical spill

Xavier Roger


Panicked buyers grabbed armfuls of bottled water from store shelves across Philadelphia on Sunday after a ruptured pipe spilled at least 8,100 gallons of a latex chemical solution into the Delaware River, a source of drinking water for millions.

The chemicals spilled late Friday at the Altuglas LLC chemical plant in Bristol, Pennsylvania, on the river about 17 miles northeast of Philadelphia. The plant manufactures acrylic resins, according to the company’s website. 

City officials advised Sunday morning that residents use bottled water for drinking and cooking, prompting widespread panic buying of bottled water. The city later changed its recommendation and said tap water was safe to drink or store for later use, at least until midnight Monday. 

No contaminants have been found in drinking water.

How large is the spill?

Where was the chemical spill?

The city water department, state environmental authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard were testing the water and monitoring the spill.

What chemicals were spilled into the river?

Trinseo PLC, which owns the Altuglas plant, said the chemical is a water-based latex emulsion solution, a combination of about 50% latex polymer and 50% water.


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