Philadelphia tap water is safe to drink for now after Bristol, Bucks County chemical spill: Officials

BRISTOL, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — The Philadelphia Department of Water is confident that tap water from the Baxter drinking water treatment plant will be safe to drink and use until at least 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28 following a chemical spill in Bucks County.

Officials announced the update during a briefing at 5 p.m. Monday.

Crews tested the water 24 hours a day. Results to date have shown no contamination of Philadelphia waters from the chemical spill, officials said.

Bucks County health officials said Sunday between 8,100 and 12,000 gallons of a water-based latex finishing solution spilled in a leak late Friday night at the Trinseo Altuglas chemical plant in Bristol Township. Officials said it was non-toxic to humans and no known adverse health effects had been reported in the county.

So far, 60,000 gallons of contaminated water have been collected, officials said Monday. Coastal patrols did not find any visible chemicals along the Delaware River Sunday morning, they said.

The Philadelphia Water Department “analyzed a variety of samples from the river and raw water basins using infrared spectroscopy and gas chromatography,” city officials said.

“No contaminants related to the Bristol Municipality discharge have been found in the city’s water system,” officials said.

Officials said they will continue to monitor the spill closely and vowed to notify the public immediately if water quality sampling indicates a potential impact on river water entering the Baxter Water Treatment Plant in northeast Philadelphia downstream of the spill.

On Sunday, Philadelphia residents were advised to buy bottled water as a precaution, but officials later stressed the water was safe to drink.

“Your tap water is and will always be safe,” said Mike Carroll, deputy general manager of the Philadelphia Department of Transportation.

“It is safe to drink and use tap water, cook with it, brush your teeth, bathe in it and of course at least until 3:30pm tomorrow,” Carroll added Monday.

As part of the city’s emergency response protocol, the city is working with partners to develop a water distribution plan if needed. Information materials in multiple languages ​​will be shared with the affected communities accordingly.

Officials said inlets to the city’s Baxter drinking water treatment plant were closed after the spill, but they were opened at 12:15 a.m. on March 26 to maintain a minimum water level to avoid damage to equipment and water for fire safety and other important things to deliver needs.

PWD closed gates at 5 a.m. on Sunday.

Potentially Affected Areas

A map of areas potentially affected by the spill can be viewed here:

Portions of Northwest, West, and Southwest Philadelphia appear unaffected, according to the map.

Residents can search their addresses on the map to see if they would be in an affected area should the city issue an advisory.

Baxter’s drinking water treatment plant doesn’t serve all of Philadelphia. The city’s other two treatment plants draw water from the Schuylkill River, which was unaffected by the spill.

Bucks County health officials said Sunday a leak late Friday night at the Trinseo Altuglas chemical plant in Bristol Township was caused by a burst pipe and spilling between 8,100 and 12,000 gallons of a water-based latex finishing solution into the river. Officials said it was non-toxic to humans and had no known adverse health effects reported in the county.

“It’s like the material you find in paint,” said Tim Thomas, senior vice president of manufacturing and engineering at Trinseo. “It’s your typical acrylic paint that you have in your house, it’s really that water-based material.”

Carroll called the health risks from the material “very low, if any.”

“I would like to reiterate that the health risks, if any, are very small. There are no acute effects associated with low exposure. Our best information is that people who drink water will not experience any short-term symptoms or acute illnesses. We see no reason to seek medical assistance in relation to this event,” Carrol said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Trinseo PLC Pipe Burst Releases Hazardous Material into Bucks County Creek; The Coast Guard responds

Local residents fill up with water

The city’s earlier directive to use bottled water led residents directly to area grocery stores.

Early Monday morning, people rushed to their neighborhood grocery store to invite.

“Like everyone else, this crowd will hit. I’m going to be a monster out here,” said one shopper.

As word spread of potentially contaminated drinking water supplies, shelves began to empty with bottled water.

“I’m not really sure what the city is doing, but I figured I’d better play it safe,” said South Philadelphia native Timothy Prettyman.

Some stores, like Acme in South Philadelphia, are restricting purchases.

“They handle three cases per client, but I figured two for me and my wife,” Prettyman said.

“They were actually limited to one customer as to what you can get,” said Wynnefield’s Mark Young, who made several stops before finding bottled water.

State environmental officials are leading the response. Pennsylvania American Water said its Yardley water treatment plant about 15 miles upstream of the release was unaffected. Aqua said it has shut off feeds to its Bristol water system to protect customers and has not seen any impact from the spill.

The chemical spill did not affect New Jersey residents, but New Jersey American Water is issuing a voluntary water safety notice for customers in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties. Customers in these counties are being asked to limit their non-essential water use until further notice. The Company is issuing this announcement to ensure optimal operation of its regional Delaware River water treatment facility.

“We continue to monitor the quality of the Delaware River and have activated our business continuity plans to continue to provide safe and reliable service to customers in this three-county region,” said Mark McDonough, President of New Jersey American Water. “We are asking our customers to voluntarily reduce their unnecessary water use for the next 24 to 48 hours to help us maintain optimal operations and an abundant supply to the region.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Philadelphia tap water is safe to drink for now after Bristol, Bucks County chemical spill: Officials

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

Related Articles

Back to top button