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Philadelphia tap water safe to drink through Monday night, water department says

Philadelphia water safe to drink for now, but issues could be horizon
Philadelphia water safe to drink for now, but issues could be horizon 02:52

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Water Department says tap water is safe to drink in the city through 11:59 p.m. Monday after a chemical spill in Bristol Township, Bucks County.

RELATED READING: Philadelphia tap water worries: Here's what we know

The water department, though, is warning residents should be prepared for some problems Tuesday.

"Based on updated hydraulic modeling and the latest sampling, we are confident tap water from the Baxter plant will remain safe to drink through 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 27," the water department wrote in a tweet.

The water department says the updated time is based on when the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant will take river water to move through treatment and water mains before it reaches customers.

Philadelphia Water Department

The water concerns do not affect the entire city. The areas in orange, east of the Schuylkill River, would be the potentially impacted areas. Those in the green, west of the Schuylkill, are not impacted because they receive water from a different source.

Philadelphia officials hold press conference regarding chemical spill 37:15

The spill of a latex product occurred Friday night in Bristol Township at Otter Creek. Between 8,000 and 12,000 gallons of acrylic latex polymer were released by a chemical processing plant.

The company that owns the plant, Trinseo PLC, is blaming the spill on equipment failure.  

Officials say acrylic latex polymer is non-toxic to humans. 

Dr. Arthur Frank, an environmental public health expert from Drexel University, says the material is probably so diluted it won't be dangerous to the water system.

Dr. Tim Bechtel, a professor of geoscience at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, echoed a similar sentiment.

Bechtel says the city's recommendation is appropriate and cautious, and that families should not panic but rather plan ahead until the threat passes.

"Collect city water now," Bechtel said, "and have a nice stockpile of water that you will be drinking and cooking with."


The earlier advisory was issued out of an abundance of caution, the water department said.

Testing has not shown the presence of water impacted by the spill in the Baxter system, according to the PWD. 

Residents can track the impact of the spill on a map provided by the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management.

Officials say there is no risk associated with inhaling the water or skin contact. Bathing and showering with water is fine. 

Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted: "We know residents are concerned, and we continue to respond to this situation as updated information comes in. I want to assure everyone: no contaminants have been found in our tap water system. At this time, Philly's tap water remains safe to drink."  

The initial advisory sent residents in Philadelphia into a frenzy.

People rushed to their closest grocery store to stock up on bottled water. It also impacted businesses in the city, including one bar that went out to buy bottled water for their customers. 

Residents can fill up bottles or pitchers with tap water with no risk, the PWD says. 

Press briefing on the City’s emergency response to the chemical spill on the Delaware River

Posted by Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management on Sunday, March 26, 2023

Officials have been testing new water coming into Baxter, which takes 24 to 48 hours to work through the system before it can be in anyone's tap.

Aqua said they "immediately shut down the intake to our Bristol water system as soon as we learned of the chemical spill, preventing customer exposure to hazardous materials."   

"Potential for contamination is diminishing over time," Mike Carroll, the deputy managing director for transportation, infrastructure and sustainability of Philadelphia, said. "We are fortunate that during a flyover conducted by the Philadelphia Police Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, they saw no visual evidence of any plumes in the Delaware River, and so far, testing of river water is revealing no levels of contamination near the Baxter intake." 

Carroll added that there will be no delays or closures for any schools within the School District of Philadelphia on Monday.

City programs will also operate on a normal schedule.

Bensalem Township officials are continuing to monitor the situation and say the water in the area is safe for all uses. 

Aqua Pennsylvania customers can track the latest developments on their website.

State environmental officials are leading the response to the spill, Carroll said. 

Philly officials are expected to give another update Monday.

Across the Delaware River, New Jersey American Water says its plant is not impacted by the chemical spill. But they issued a voluntary conservation notice for customers in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties. 

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