The City of Philadelphia said it was “now confident” tap water will remain safe to drink or cook through Monday night following a chemical spill in a tributary of the Delaware River in suburban Bucks County.
Michael Carrol, deputy managing director for the City’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability, said no contaminants had been found in the drinking water since the spill late Friday. In an earlier advisory on Sunday, officials recommended residents across most of the city use bottled water “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Nonetheless, because we cannot be 100% sure that there won’t be traces of these chemicals in the tap water throughout the afternoon, we want the public to be aware so that people can consider switching to bottled water to further minimize any risk,” Carrol said.
But by Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia Water Department said the current tap water available was treated before the chemical spill and remains safe to drink and use through at least 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The city said residents can fill bottles and pitchers with tap water with “no risk at this time.”
What are the chemicals that spilled?
Carroll said the spilled chemicals included butyl acrylate, a colorless liquid with a sharp odor that was among the chemicals involved in the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, last month. The derailment, near the rural town of 4,700 people along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, created plumes of smoke and prompted concerns about air, water and soil quality.
The alert, which triggered a run on bottled water across the city, came after an estimated 8,100 gallons of latex finishing material spilled when a pipe ruptured at a chemical plant, Trinseo PLC. Carroll said the Philadelphia Water Department became aware of this through an early warning system and has been monitoring the situation and conducting testing.
Will people suffer ill effects from exposure?
He said no acute effects are associated with low level exposure and that “our best information” is that people who ingest water will not suffer any near-term symptoms or acute medical conditions. There is no concern over skin exposure, and bathing and washing dishes do not present a concern, he said.
“We foresee no reason to seek medical attention related to this event,” Carroll said. “Again, this advisory is being issued out of an abundance of caution to prevent any theoretical, long-term public health impacts.”