Updated Mar 28, 2023 - News

Philly drinking water state of play

Animated illustration of a spigot with droplets of water falling.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Philadelphia’s water is safe to drink until at least 11:59 pm Wednesday, the city said Tuesday morning.

State of play: There's been no contamination of Philly’s water system from synthetic latex chemicals that flowed into the Delaware River last week from a manufacturing facility in Bristol, Philadelphia, officials said during a news conference late Monday.

  • Officials did not recommend the closure of schools, businesses, daycares or events.

Meanwhile, the city continues to test the water in and around its Delaware River treatment plant and has seen no evidence that contamination from the chemical spill has harmed the river, like causing fish kills, said Mike Carroll, deputy managing director for transportation, infrastructure and sustainability.

  • “Use your tap water as you normally do,” Carroll said.

Yes, but: Officials also stressed residents should have at least three days’ worth of bottled water available, per FEMA guidelines. That amounts to one gallon per person per day.

  • The city is working on an emergency water distribution plan, which would focus on the most “vulnerable populations,” Carroll said.

Between the lines: The chemical spill could affect water treated at the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant, which takes supply from the Delaware and serves about 58% of the city.

  • Philly’s two other treatment plants draw water from the Schuylkill River, which are not capable of supplying the areas fed by the Delaware River plant, Carroll said.

☝️ Be smart: See whether your drinking water comes from the Delaware by searching for your address on the city’s website.

Catch up quick: Friday night's spill at a Trinseo manufacturing facility appears to be the result of an equipment failure, the company said on Monday.

Zoom in: Philly health commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said there's a “lack of exact information” about possible long-term health side effects.

  • But if the city’s tap water is exposed, it would be at a “very, very low level.” At higher levels, the chemicals could potentially cause skin irritation and neurological effects, she said.

Some grocery stores sold out of bottled water on Monday, while others including Wawa were limiting sales, per the Inquirer.

Acme, which has 17 stores in Philly and more than three dozen outside the city’s borders, was receiving extra water deliveries Monday to ensure enough was available, spokesperson Dana Ward tells Axios.

  • The grocery chain continues to monitor the situation and could truck in more water as needed, she says. Locations are limiting water sales online but not in stores.
  • “We’ll keep delivering until we don’t need to anymore,” Ward says.

What they’re saying: Adam Volk, owner of Redcrest Kitchen restaurant in Queen Village, tells Axios he was frustrated by the city’s communication efforts around the spill, particularly on Sunday when the city issued a bottled water advisory and then rescinded it.

  • “It just seems like the emergency response from Philadelphia was poorly thought out and devastating to restaurants that had to close out of an abundance of caution” on Sunday, Volk says.

What to watch: Trinseo and Altuglas LLC, a subsidiary, said in a news release that they're working with regulators to test water samples and complete the cleanup.

What’s next: City officials will provide further updates about tap water Tuesday evening.

  • The remnants of the chemical spill are expected to pass by the Baxter plant as early as Wednesday or Thursday but should not stick around longer than “some point next week,” Carroll said.

Editor's note: This is a developing story and will be updated as news breaks.


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