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County officials: Drinking water safe despite Bristol chemical spill


There is no indication so far that a chemical spill into Otter Creek and the Delaware River near Bristol Borough Friday has resulted in unsafe drinking water, Bucks County officials reported on Tuesday.

“Water samples collected Monday (received by the county on Tuesday) from the Delaware River once again found no contaminants from the spill,” read a statement on the county website. “The county received positive water quality reports from the state DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), water providers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard. Samples were collected at several locations near drinking water intakes along the river.

“With this morning’s report, there are still no known adverse impacts to drinking water in Bucks County. Testing is expected to continue later today (Tuesday).”

County Emergency Services is among many agencies that continue to monitor and address the situation, with the state DEP the lead agency.

According to information from the Coast Guard and Trinseo, an estimated 8,100 gallons of latex finishing material, a water-soluble polymer solution, escaped a Trinseo containment system and found its way first into the storm drain system, then Otter Creek and finally into the Delaware River. The Trinseo operation is located on the Dow Chemical property in Bristol Borough.

The spill was due to a mechanical failure, Coast Guard officials added.

“The release of materials has been stopped,” Trinseo CEO Frank Bozich said in a news release. “Our efforts are now focused on testing the local waterways. We are conducting an assessment of all of our systems and processes to identify and address potential vulnerabilities and will take the steps necessary to close any gaps.”

In the meantime, the company has closed down production, the release added. A Coast Guard spokeswoman said Tuesday that so far it has collected and stored 96,000 gallons of contaminated water. Testing will continue for the next one or two days and the situation will be reevaluated at that time, she added.

“The Coast Guard is still currently tracking any impacts on marine life and has not received any reports of affected wildlife,” the Coast Guard spokeswoman said. She added the public is encouraged to report any affected wildlife by calling 215-271-4940.

A message from Bristol Borough Mayor Ralph DiGuiseppe III on the borough website states that bottled water is still being recommended for borough residents until further notice. Bucks County officials said they did not know of any other drinking water advisories issued by area water suppliers, but added residents of Bristol Borough and Bristol and Bensalem townships should contact their water suppliers for the latest information.

A statement emailed Tuesday from Pennsylvania DEP Community Relations Coordinator Stephanie Berardi laid out the latest on the situation.

“Water sampling is underway by the various agencies and water suppliers involved to determine if there are any of the following chemicals present from the Acrylic Latex Polymer: Ethyl acrylate, Methyl methacrylate, Butyl acrylate and Styrene, which may have been present in trace amounts then further diluted once it entered the water,” Berardi’s statement read.

“We are currently working with Aqua Pennsylvania, Lower Bucks Joint Municipal Authority, Philadelphia Water Department, New Jersey American, City of Trenton, Burlington City, city officials and other government agencies to ensure that the safety of drinking water is not compromised. At the current time, there are no detectable levels of any of the above-mentioned chemicals in the water near the drinking water intakes that have been tested. Residents should consult their drinking water suppliers for the most current information.”

The situation may be causing a run on bottled water at area stores. A photo texted to the Herald showed a large empty shelf at the Cross Keys Giant supermarket in Plumstead where bottled water used to be.

A manager at the store referred all questions to Ashley Flower, public relations manager for the Giant chain.

“While I can’t speak to a particular store or stores, we are seeing an increase in demand for bottled water in the Philadelphia area,” Flower wrote in an email to the Herald. “We are working with our supplier partners to bring in additional quantities, but it is possible that a store may be temporarily out of stock.”

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