Is Bucks County at risk after Delaware River chemical spill ? What we know about drinking water

·4 min read

Aqua Pennsylvania is saying it's Lower Bucks County customers do not need to avoid tap water following Friday's chemical spill into a creek near the Delaware River in Bristol.

"Our operations team immediately shut down the intake to our Bristol water system, as soon as we learned of the chemical spill preventing customer exposure to hazardous materials,," the company said in a text message Sunday night.

Officials said they are not seeing any of the chemicals from the spill in its drinking water supply. Aqua officials are continuing to monitor the situation with state and federal agencies and it would reopen its intake only when its confident that the source water is safe for customers, the text message said.

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Meanwhile on Sunday Philadelphia issued drinking water advisory suggesting its residents may want to switch to bottled water for cooking and drinking. The announcement resulted in a run on bottled water in supermarkets in and around the city, including Bucks County.

Waterfront Park, along the Delaware River, in Bristol Borough, on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.
Waterfront Park, along the Delaware River, in Bristol Borough, on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.

Later Sunday, the Philadelphia Water Department said it was "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," based on the time it will take river water that entered the Baxter intakes early Sunday morning to move through treatment and water mains before reaching customers.

Officials said there was no need to buy water as there is no risk to tap water at this time. Further testing will be done.

The Brown's Shoprite in Bensalem was nearly out of bottled water Sunday afternoon. Supermarket shelves in Lower Bucks were empty Sunday afternoon after Philadelphia officials issued a drinking water advisory after chemicals that spilled in Bristol entered a Delaware River tributary.  Aqua Pennsylvania, which supplies water in Lower Bucks said the spill has not impacted system.
The Brown's Shoprite in Bensalem was nearly out of bottled water Sunday afternoon. Supermarket shelves in Lower Bucks were empty Sunday afternoon after Philadelphia officials issued a drinking water advisory after chemicals that spilled in Bristol entered a Delaware River tributary. Aqua Pennsylvania, which supplies water in Lower Bucks said the spill has not impacted system.
The Brown's Shoprite in Bensalem was nearly out of bottled water Sunday afternoon. Supermarket shelves in Lower Bucks were empty Sunday afternoon after Philadelphia officials issued a drinking water advisory after chemicals that spilled in Bristol entered a Delaware River tributary.  Aqua Pennsylvania, which supplies water in Lower Bucks said the spill has not impacted system.
The Brown's Shoprite in Bensalem was nearly out of bottled water Sunday afternoon. Supermarket shelves in Lower Bucks were empty Sunday afternoon after Philadelphia officials issued a drinking water advisory after chemicals that spilled in Bristol entered a Delaware River tributary. Aqua Pennsylvania, which supplies water in Lower Bucks said the spill has not impacted system.

Is my water safe to use?

On Sunday afternoon, Philadelphia Water advised residents that water treated at the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Facility could potentially be impacted.

Aqua Pennsylvania officials, though, noted there are a number of important differences between its water sources and distribution system and the Philadelphia Water Department.

The river water supply that Aqua uses is located above the spill site and the utility has multiple local sources of water that can, and have, been used to support drinking water supplies in the Bristol service area, according to the utility. Multiple water supply sources reduces the chance of running out of water while not taking water from the Delaware River.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said Sunday ongoing water sampling is being conducted at various locations along the river, but that no contaminants had been detected at drinking water intakes..

What happened at Otter Creek in Bristol?

Some 8,100 gallons of latex finishing material, a water soluble acrylic polymer solution, was released into Otter Creek, but the Coast Guard said up to 12,000 gallons may have been released. Otter Creek is a tributary and runs into the Delaware River.

"The estimated amount released will be updated as response and recovery efforts continue, and the source of the release has been secured and is under investigation," according the Coast Guard.

A pipe burst at Trinseo Altuglas on Route 413 in Bristol Township.

"It hit the roof of a building, went down a gutter, from the gutter it went to a storm drain, from the storm drains it found another outfall basin, from there it started to leak into the river," Tim Thomas, senior vice president of manufacturing and engineering at Trinseo, told 6ABC on Saturday.

Coast Guard watch standers from Sector Delaware Bay received a notification from the National Response Center at about 11:40 p.m. Friday night of the spill. Watch standers conducted interagency notifications and dispatched a team of pollution responders to the scene, officials said.

As of early Sunday, no additional product was leaving the facility and entering the Delaware River. DEP staff will remain on-site to investigate the cause and impacts of the spill, the agency said.

There have not been any signs of fish or wildlife impacts, according to DEP.

Who is responding to the spill in Bristol?

“Since the first hours after the incident, the Department of Environmental Protection has been at the facility where the spill originated and will be staying until there is no longer a threat to those impacted in Bucks and Philadelphia counties,” said DEP Acting Secretary Rich Negrin. “We are working closely with our partners to monitor the spread of the contaminants and we will hold the responsible party accountable.”

Officials from each agency: DEP, EPA, US Coast Guard, and the PA Fish and Boat Commission are working to determine risks and investigating. The DEP is also working with Aqua Pennsylvania, Lower Bucks Joint Municipal Authority, Philadelphia Water Department, and New Jersey American, city officials, and other government agencies.

Officials said residents can check with local water supplier to determine if you should take any precautions. DEP and other agencies will continue to monitor the situation.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Hazardous material released into creek near Delaware River in Bristol