- Spilled “latex product” contaminated the Delaware River near Philadelphia on Friday night.
- Philly officials sent residents a warning to use bottled water “until further notice” on Saturday.
- Officials on Sunday reversed course, saying the water is safe for now after residents surged into stores.
Residents of Philadelphia rushed to stores to buy bottled water after city officials warned of a chemical spill impacting the Delaware River “until further notice” only to have warnings reversed a day later by the Philadelphia Water Department saying the water is safe — for now.
On Friday night, a “latex product” spill occurred in a tributary in Bristol Township, Bucks County, officials said in a statement. The water from the tributary provides water for residents of Philadelphia, a city of 1.5 million people.
According to an official map of the impacted area, more than half of Philly residents could be impacted.
While city representatives stated in their initial release that water contamination had not been detected from the spill, residents on Sunday after received an official emergency alert sent to their phones that urged them to use bottled water “until further notice” for all customers of the Philadelphia Water Department.
“Contaminants have not been found in the system at this time but this is out of caution due to a spill in the Delaware River,” the emergency alert, reviewed by Insider, read.
In response to the alert, Philadelphians surged into stores, with huge lines of people buying out stocks of bottled water, digital outlet Raws Global reported on Twitter.
Representatives for the City of Philadelphia did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
—R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) March 26, 2023
After residents were sent scattering to find bottled water, they received another alert from officials, this time reversing course and saying the water currently being processed through the Philadelphia Water Department was not impacted by the spill and the water would remain safe through the weekend.
“Based on updated hydraulic modeling and the latest sampling results and data, the Philadelphia Water Department is now confident tap water from the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant will remain safe to drink and use at least through 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 27, 2023,” said in a statement released Sunday afternoon, hours after the first alert was sent.
The statement added: “There is no need to buy water at this time. Customers can fill bottles or pitchers with tap water with no risk at this time.”
Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney, in a Sunday evening statement posted to Twitter, said: “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.”
But Philly residents aren’t so sure — on social media, some speculated whether the water was really safe, and planned to continue using bottled water because they didn’t want to face potential exposure to the chemicals.
“We can’t take the risk,” one wrote.