Residents in Philadelphia and nearby areas have been buying bottled water after a chemical spill upstream in the Delaware River in neighboring Bucks county, despite officials’ latest advisory insisting tap water was safe to drink at least up to midnight Monday.
The concerns came after a leak late Friday evening at the Trinseo Altuglas chemical facility in Bristol Township spilled between 8,100 and 12,000 gallons of a water-based latex finishing solution into the river, Bucks county health officials said Sunday.
While officials insisted the solution is non-toxic to humans and that no known adverse health effects have been reported in the county, many residents have been buying bottled water after officials earlier advised that some people may want to use it to drink and cook. Social media showed long lines for bottled water at Philadelphia area stores.
Early on Sunday Mike Carroll, deputy managing director for Philadelphia’s office of transportation, infrastructure and sustainability, said there had been no sign of contaminants in city water but added officials “cannot be 100% certain” traces won’t show up by Sunday afternoon. He called health risks from the material “very low if present at all” but said officials wanted people to be aware so they could consider using bottled water to drink or cook with to further minimize any risk.
The city water department said in an update on Sunday evening that water “will remain safe to drink and use” at least through Monday, based on the time it takes water to move through treatment and water mains before reaching customers.
It added that the earlier message that residents may want to use bottled water was made out of an “abundance of caution”.
Tim Thomas, Trinseo senior vice-president of manufacturing and engineering, told WPVI-TV on Saturday that the material posed no risk to the public. “It’s like the material you find in paint,” he told the station. “It’s your typical acrylic paint you have in your house, that’s what really this material is, in a water base.”
The chemical spill comes after a high-profile chemical spill incident when a train carrying vinyl chloride derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, prompting major health concerns among residents, and distrust of official advice that they are safe from contamination risks.
Campaigner Erin Brockovich tweeted on Monday saying she was not surprised people were rushing to buy bottled water amid the wider distrust of officials on safety after spill incidents.
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