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Encyclopedia > Walkerton Tragedy

The Walkerton Tragedy is a series of events that accompanied the contamination of the water supply of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada, by E. coli bacteria in May 2000. Image File history File links Mergefrom. ... Walkerton is a small town on the Saugeen River in Bruce County, Ontario, 75 km southwest of Owen Sound. ... See also Entamoeba coli. ... 2000 : January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December This is a timeline for events in May, 2000. ...


The water supply for the town of Walkerton was operated by the Walkerton Public Utillities Commission, with Stan Koebel as manager. The water supply became contaminated with the highly dangerous O157:H7 strain of E. coli bacteria, from farm runoff into an adjacent well that was known for years to be vulnerable to contamination. Starting May 15, 2000, many residents of the town of about 6,000 began to simultaneously experience bloody diarrhea and other symptoms of E. coli infection. For days the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission insisted the water supply was "OK" despite being in possession of laboratory tests that had found evidence of contamination. On May 21, an escalation in the number of patients with similar symptoms finally spurred the region's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Murray McQuigge, to issue a boil water advisory, warning residents not to drink the water. Stan Koebel and Frank Koebel were workers at the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission at the time of the Walkerton Tragedy. ... Escherichia coli O157:H7 is an emerging cause of foodborne illness. ... E. coli redirects here. ... is the 135th day of the year (136th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2000 (MM) was a leap year starting on Saturday. ... Diarrhea, also spelled diarrhoea (see spelling differences), is a condition in which the sufferer has frequent watery, loose bowel movements (from the Greek word διάρροια; literally meaning through-flowing). Acute infectious diarrhea is a common cause of death in developing countries (particularly among infants), accounting for 5 to 8 million deaths... is the 141st day of the year (142nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

Seven people died directly from E.coli contamination of the drinking water, and about 2,500 (more than 40% of the population at the time) became ill, including some from out of town who had been visiting for the Canadian Victoria Day long weekend.


The Ontario Clean Water Agency was put in charge of the cleanup of Walkerton's water system. The Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) is a Crown agency of the Province of Ontario that provides operation, maintenance and management services for more than 450 water and wastewater treatment facilities in the province. ...

An inquiry, known as the Walkerton Commission led by Ontario Court of Appeal Associate Chief Justice Dennis O'Connor, reported in 2002. The Part 1 report, released in January 2002, estimated that the Walkerton water tragedy cost a minimum of $64.5-155 million CAD and laid much of the blame at the door of the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission. The Ontario Court of Appeal is headquartered in downtown Toronto, in historic Osgoode Hall. ... C$ redirects here. ...

From the report:

For years, the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission operators engaged in a host of improper operating practices, including failing to use adequate doses of chlorine, failing to monitor chlorine residuals daily, making false entries about residuals in daily operating records, and misstating the locations at which microbiological samples were taken. The operators knew that these practices were unacceptable and contrary to Ministry of Environment guidelines and directives.

The Ontario government was also blamed for not regulating water quality and not enforcing the guidelines that had been in place. General Name, symbol, number chlorine, Cl, 17 Chemical series nonmetals Group, period, block 17, 3, p Appearance yellowish green Standard atomic weight 35. ... The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for addressing the environmental issues affecting the environmental protection of the Canadian province of Ontario and the World. ...

The Part 2 report made many recommendations for improving the quality of water and public health in Ontario. All of its recommendations have been accepted by succeeding governments of the province. The recommendations have also influenced provincial policies across Canada.

Key recommendations touched on source water protection, the training and certification of operators, a quality management system for water suppliers, and more competent enforcement. In Ontario, these requirements have been incorporated into new legislation.

For an in-depth account of the tragedy, see Well of Lies: The Walkerton Water Tragedy (McClelland & Stewart 2002) by Colin N. Perkel.

The many lessons learned from this incident were described by Kim Vicente in his book The Human Factor. Kim Vicente is a professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at The University of Toronto. ... An airplane, an example of aviation technology The Human Factor: Revolutionizing the Way People Live with Technology (ISBN 0-415-97064-4) is the title of a book by Kim Vicente that Routledge published in 2004. ...

A 2005 CBC Television docu-drama called Betrayed was based loosely upon the Walkerton tragedy. CBC Television is a Canadian English language television network. ...

In 2001 a similar outbreak in North Battleford, Saskatchewan caused by the protozoan Cryptosporidium affected at least 5,800 people. Location of North Battleford, Saskatchewan North Battleford is a small city in west central Saskatchewan, Canada. ... Species Cryptosporidium bailey Cryptosporidium meleagridis Cryptosporidium muris Cryptosporidium parvum Cryptosporidium serpentis Cryptosporidium is a protozoan pathogen of the Phylum Apicomplexa and causes a diarrheal illness called cryptosporidiosis. ...

External links

  • Contamination: The Poisonous Legacy of Ontario's Environmental Cutbacks. History and context of the tragedy.
  • Background article from the CBC
  • Water Science and Technology article
  • CBC Digital Archives - Death on tap: The poisoning of Walkerton
  • The Walkerton Commission Reports
Radio-Canada redirects here. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Walkerton - Five Years After - Drinking Water and Health Newsletter (1024 words)
In their recently concluded trial, Walkerton utilities manager Stan Koebel and his brother Frank pleaded guilty to a charge of "common nuisance" for failing to monitor and treat the town's water supply properly.
Walkerton is almost entirely dependent on groundwater for its domestic water supply and, beginning in 1949, deep wells were constructed for municipal service.
It was found that Walkerton's municipal budget was providing inadequate funds for public utility oversight and unduly limiting proactive oversight measure, which may have either mitigated or altogether avoided the outbreak.
  More results at FactBites »



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