Philadelphia Tap Water Safe, at Least Until Wednesday Night, Officials Say After Chemical Spill Panics City

News of a chemical spill over the weekend in the Delaware River panicked Philadelphia residents, who emptied store shelves of bottled water. Tap water is safe, at least until Wednesday night, officials said.

In a strange case of "good news/bad news," Philadelphia residents were told Tuesday that their tap water was safe to drink.

At least until Wednesday night. 

Panicked buyers emptied store shelves of bottled water over the weekend as news spread of a chemical spill near the Delaware River that endangered drinking water.

Mayor Jim Kenney was bombarded by local reporters Tuesday after the city sent out several advisories, which appeared contradictory, leaving residents alarmed and anxious about the city's water quality.

While acknowledging the spill was "scary," the mayor said the city did the best it could.

"When we weren’t sure, we had to give people some advisory, so people would be safe," he said. "If we had held onto the information you would be asking me why we didn’t say anything."

Officials did not expect a run on bottled water, so no water distribution centers were set up for residents, Kenney said.

"Look, we had a run on toilet paper during Covid that didn’t make sense either, and people (buying) 10 cases of water is pretty selfish," he said.

A busted pipe at a chemical plant sent thousands of gallons of a polymer solution into a Delaware River tributary Friday, authorities said. The leak was near a major water treatment plant.

Tests of city water have so far found no chemical contaminants, officials said. On Tuesday, Philadelphia authorities told residents their tap water was safe to use until Wednesday at until 11:59 p.m. as testing continues. 

Related Stories