News Feature | May 5, 2017

Despite Rumors Following Chemical Spill, Atlanta Assures That Drinking Water Is Safe

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Last month, about 250 gallons of benzoyl chloride, a compound that is used in medicines, dyes, and resins, spilled on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, GA.

The spill took place in the downtown section of the city and caused major problems with the morning commute, as well as persistent concerns that the chemical contaminated drinking water supplies.

Benzoyl chloride can be toxic if it is breathed in and can also burn a person’s skins and eyes. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, federal regulators assisted in the investigation of the crash.

The Constitution reported that the Department of Watershed Management was not worried about “the quality of water entering facilities for treatment or treated water leaving water treatment plants.”

However, the water department decided to issue a statement to stop online rumors from circulating that the spill had contaminated Atlanta’s water supply.

“The health and safety of our customers is our top priority, and at no time was there a concern about the quality of water entering or leaving our water treatment plants following this incident,” Watershed Commissioner Kishia Powell said in a release obtained by the Constitution.

The department stated that its water plants “remain in compliance with Safe Drinking Water standards.”

Duane DeBruyne, deputy director of communications for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told the Constitution that his agency would assist state and local law enforcement in the probe of the crash and chemical spill.

The agency’s role, DeBruyne said, “will be a thorough review of the carrier’s compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This includes an examination of the carrier operations, the vehicle and the driver compliance with the (federal regulations).”

“The results of this thorough review will be provided to the state/local authorities to help provide as full a picture as possible of all the elements that may — or may not — be factors in the crash,” DeBruyne said in an email to the Constitution.

The driver of the big rig that caused the massive spill, Matthew Bowden, “was cited by Atlanta police for driving improperly inside I-285. Big rigs that don’t have business inside the Perimeter aren’t supposed to drive inside I-285.”

To read more about how utilities communicate with ratepayers visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.