Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023

On Sunday, Philadelphia residents received a Public Safety Alert, advising the use of bottled drinking water, due to a spill in the Delaware River. Given the short notice, residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, and were met with long lines and empty shelves. Students at Philadelphia universities also struggled to find safe drinking water and looked to their schools for help.

The spill in the Delaware River happened on Friday night. CBS Philadelphia reported the spill consisted of eight to twelve thousand gallons of acrylic latex polymer into Otter Creek. Officials feared that the latex would contaminate the water supplies of Bucks County and the city of Philadelphia, especially as it approached the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant.

Since the initial warning, residents said they have received conflicting information about the safety of their water supply from City officials. Officials have been testing the water continuously for multiple types of latex contaminants. The first Public Safety Alert warned residents to not drink tap water after 2 p.m. on Sunday, that date then changed to Monday at 11:59 p.m., then again to Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. Days later, officials from the Philadelphia Water Department deemed the water free of any possible contaminants from the spill, declaring the water supply is safe to drink. 

During the time of panic, residents instantly rushed to purchase bottled water. However, due to hoarding and shortages, some Philadelphia residents struggled to stock up on water. Students at Philadelphia universities including Temple and Drexel University were no exception to the struggle to find safe drinking water and looked to their school for assistance.

Temple University sent out an email to their student body warning students of possible contamination in the water but some students felt the email offered little assistance in response to the potential crisis. Temple University student Victoria Perez said, “[Temple] offered packs of water to any students who needed them, they weren’t free though.”

With limited resources available, students had to find other methods of acquiring safe drinking water. After being told the water supply would only be safe for so long, Perez said her and her roommates filled up their Brita water pitcher to the brim while they knew it was still safe to drink. Additionally, some students relied on family members to deliver gallons of water to them during the emergency.

On March 28, the potential contamination in the water supply was deemed clear by the Philadelphia Water Department. The investigation and testing of the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant have since concluded, and the city can go back to using tap water as normal.

Kelly Wallace is a second-year media and culture major with a minor in journalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *