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Delaware riverkeeper wants accountability, answers after chemical spill

Delaware riverkeeper wants accountability, answers after chemical spill
Delaware riverkeeper wants accountability, answers after chemical spill 03:10

BRISTOL, Pa. (CBS) -- It's been nearly two weeks since a chemical leak endangered Philadelphia's drinking water, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how it happened and whether anyone is being held accountable.

The Delaware Riverkeeper's job is to be the voice of the river when something happens that may help or hurt it.

What did she have to say about the fallout from this leak?

When she heard 8,000-12,000 gallons of a liquid latex solution had leaked into the Delaware River and endangered our drinking water, she was determined to hold the responsible parties accountable.

So it never happens again.

"They were giving such conflicting information to the community that it really, at moments, was creating panic because people didn't know if they were drinking contaminated water," Maya Van Rossum said.

Like the rest of us, Van Rossum didn't find out about the recent chemical leak in the Delaware River until two days after it happened.

Trinseo in Bucks County said an equipment failure was the cause of a chemical leak that threatened Philadelphia's water supply. Tests have shown that the leak did not make it into a water treatment plant. CBS News Philadelphia

She says timely, reliable information has been hard to come by ever since then.

"The information that was coming out was very light information, it was confusing information, it was conflicting information. So people really didn't know what was going on and that was just fundamentally wrong," Van Rossum told CBS News Philadelphia.

She starts with Trinseo, the manufacturing company that oversaw the Bucks County chemical plant where the leak started.

Trinseo has blamed the leak on "equipment failure" but has declined to go into further detail about what exactly went wrong.

"Right now, the information that we have seems to really be provided only by Trinseo, as to what happened, why it happened, and whether or not it could happen again," Van Rossum said. "And I really want to make sure that our state and federal agencies are making sure that we understand what happened."

To be clear, Van Rossum has no issues with how the water department tested the drinking water after the leak and deemed it to be safe.

The Delaware Riverkeeper wants to make sure wildlife was not impacted by the chemical spill that threatened Philadelphia's water supply in March. Testing has showed the water is safe to drink and bathe with. CBS News Philadelphia

But she questions whether any agencies have been monitoring and testing the river since the spill to make sure it didn't damage the surrounding ecosystems and native wildlife.

"We have Native American eel, we have native mussels, we have really important macro vertebrates, the little critters at the base of the food chain, the fish that feed everything," Van Rossum said. "These were all in the path of harm, so how have they been impacted? One will only know through appropriate monitoring and data collection."

With Trinseo set to resume operations soon, Van Rossum says she just wants to make sure there's no potential for a repeat.

"I want to make sure that our state and federal agencies are doing the proper investigation to know and ensure wer're going to be able to hold Trinseo accountable for the damages that they inflicted on our environment and the fear that they inflicted on our communities, and I'm not confident about what's happening on that front," Van Rossum said.

We did reach out to some of the agencies Van Rossum mentioned: the Coast Guard and Department of Environmental Protection in both Pennyslvania and New Jersey.

And they're working on facilitating interviews and gathering information to answer some of our questions.

As soon as we get those answers, we'll be sure to pass them along to you.

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