Residents of Philadelphia panic-bought bottled water on Sunday, clearing out shelves and standing in long lines in scenes reminiscent of the pandemic. The chaos began after Philadelphia officials announced on Sunday that residents should only drink bottled water "out of caution" after the spill of a latex product alongside a tributary of the Delaware River.
City officials sent a text message to area residents stating, "City of Phila recommends using bottled drinking water from 2PM 3/26/2023 until further notice for all Phila Water Department customers." The message added, "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."
After the alert to residents was sent out, long lines began to form at local stores where workers began limiting the amount of water that customers could purchase.
Mike Carroll, Philadelphia's Deputy Managing Director for Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability, said, "As has been reported, on Friday night, a chemical spill occurred in Bristol Township, Bucks County which released contaminants into the Delaware River."
"The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) became aware of this through the Delaware Valley Early Warning System (EWS) and has been evaluating the situation since that time to understand potential impacts to the public. Although early indications have not revealed contamination, we are still monitoring the situation and conducting testing," Carroll added.
On Monday, Philadelphia officials rescinded the recommendation that local residents only drink bottled water, claiming that testing has found no contamination in city water. Officials noted that city tap water should be considered safe and potable through at least 11:59 p.m. Monday night.
In an effort to dissuade hoarding, city officials encouraged residents to use containers to store up to 2 days' worth of tap water in case the condition of the city's water should change. Carroll noted during a press conference, "I want to reiterate there was never any contamination in Philadelphia Water Department's system."
"There was contamination in the Delaware River, but we shut off the intake to the River and we're operating off of water that was not contaminated," Carroll concluded.
The contamination of the Delaware River is just one of several recent contaminations and other incidents that have affected city water supply, infrastructure, and food supply across the country. In February, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, where officials said for days that local waters were not contaminated, despite residents noticing a rainbow-colored sheen on the surface of ponds and hundreds of animals dying overnight after the derailment.
There has also been a rash of questionable fires at egg suppliers and other food industry facilities in recent months.
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