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Philadelphia cancels bottled water alert after chemical spill in Delaware River

Philadelphia officials on Sunday afternoon rescinded their recommendation for residents to use bottled drinking water following a toxic spill in the Delaware River.

A spill from an upstream chemical plant Friday night in Bucks County had triggered preemptive bottled water alerts Sunday morning and afternoon, city officials said.

Tests determined there was no contamination in the river near the city’s water system intake, or in the system itself, said Michael Carroll, deputy general manager of the city, during a video press conference early Sunday evening.

The water intake was closed but temporarily reopened early Sunday to ensure the system had a minimum water level to maintain pressure for firefighting and other uses, officials said.

At Sunday night’s press conference, they said tap water was safe to drink until at least midnight. Officials will provide updates on social media, they said.

Acknowledging a shortage of bottled water in the city, officials said there was no need to store bottled water and suggested people use clean, empty containers to store water tap now in case the situation changes.

“Residents should try to maintain two days of water,” said Carroll, assistant general manager of Philadelphia’s office of transportation, infrastructure and sustainability.

Early Sunday, he said no contaminants had yet been found, but there was no guarantee the water would remain pure, according to NBC Philadelphia.

The system underwent repeated testing and a Philadelphia police plane was used by state environmental officials to fly over the spill area, where previous visual evidence was no longer visible, Carroll said.

“The situation has improved,” he said on Sunday evening. “My understanding was that there was evidence along the Delaware at one point. They haven’t seen visual evidence of contamination in the river at this time.”

Officials believe bathing and showering in water was still safe, he said.

The bottled water scares came after a pipe burst at Trinseo, a chemical plant in Bucks County, resulting in a chemical spill Friday night that spilled about 8,100 gallons of “acrylic polymer solution water-soluble,” a latex finishing material, in Otter Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River, NBC Philadelphia reported.

The historic Delaware feeds the city’s Baxter drinking water treatment plant and separates Philadelphia from New Jersey.

Butyl acrylate and ethyl acrylate, both used to make resins, plastics and adhesives, city officials said.

Butyl acrylate was also on board the freight train that derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio, where federal officials expressed concern after the wreckage burned. They eventually declared the community safe for residents.

Drinking water supplier Aqua Pennsylvania said in a statement that the company “immediately closed the inlet to our Bristol water system upon learning of the chemical spill, preventing customer exposure to Hazardous Material”.

“Thanks to their quick action, we see none of the chemicals from the spill in our drinking water,” the statement continued.

The company said it was working with state and federal agencies to monitor the situation and would only reopen the water intake when it “meets our strict quality standards.”

The exact cause of the Delaware spill was under investigation.

Denis Romero contributed.

nbcnews Gt

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