After a chemical spilled into a tributary of the Delaware River, which serves as a source of drinking water for approximately 14 million people across four states, Philadelphia officials suggested earlier in the day that residents consider using bottled water rather than water from the tap for drinking and cooking. However, on Sunday evening, these officials reversed their position and suggested that residents use bottled water instead of water from the tap.
The previous advisory, which was issued on Sunday morning, was issued after a pipe burst at a chemical plant owned by Trinseo PLC late on Friday night, releasing approximately 8,100 gallons of a water-soluble acrylic polymer solution into Otter Creek in Bucks County, which is located north of Philadelphia, according to the officials.
Since it was not possible to “be one hundred percent confident that there won’t be traces of these chemicals in the tap water throughout the day,” officials advised locals to exercise extreme care and consider purchasing bottled water as an alternative to drinking water from the tap.
Later on Sunday, Michael Carroll, Philadelphia’s deputy managing director for transportation, infrastructure, and sustainability, said that such actions were unneeded at a press conference.
Despite this, the incident, which occurred more than a month after a derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, caused a catastrophic leak of chemicals, seemed to be very fresh in the minds of those living in Philadelphia.
Commenters on a Facebook page that reported on the earlier city news conference drew comparisons to the derailment in Ohio and expressed hesitation to consume the municipal tap water.
More than half of Philadelphia’s water comes from the Delaware River basin, which allows the city’s water system to provide service to around 2 million people in the city and the neighbouring counties. Water is provided by the Delaware River to the states of Delaware, New Jersey, and New York.
As of Sunday morning, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reported that “no further product was leaving the plant and entering the Delaware River.” Despite this, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is continuing to investigate the situation. It was recommended by the Coast Guard, which had also reacted to the spill, that people stay away from the area where cleaning efforts were taking place.
Both butyl acrylate and ethyl acrylate are odourless liquids that are used in the production of paints, caulks, and adhesives. Both of these chemicals were discharged into the environment when the pipe that was containing them ruptured.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, exposure to any of these compounds may result in breathing problems as well as irritation of the eyes and skin. The Norfolk Southern train that derailed in Ohio included a number of dangerous goods, including butyl acrylate.