Canada, UPDATE Walkerton water unlikely to be safe to drink 'any time soon' : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

JIM ALGIE, Owen Sound Sun Times

WALKERTON, Ont. (CP) - Despite a planned seven-week, door-to-door clean-up of Walkerton's contaminated water system, the medical officer of health for the region still doesn't know precisely how or when he'll verify its safety.

"I don't think that is going to happen any time soon," Murray McQuigge said Friday, referring to the end of the community's boil-water alert.

Ontario Clean Water Agency officials took over operations of this southwestern Ontario town's water system four weeks ago after the municipal Public Utilities Commission relieved its manager of his duties following massive contamination by the deadly E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria.

At least seven people have been confirmed dead as a result of drinking contaminated water and Ontario's chief coroner has launched in investigation into as many as 18 deaths.

As well, hundreds of town residents became ill with bacterial infection.

Provincial police and an independent judicial investigations have been ordered into the incident.

The door-to-door clean-up campaign of both the public and private plumbing began a week ago. When it began, water-system operators expected it would take about seven weeks to complete.

But McQuigge said he really has no way of predicting when his agency will be able to lift its continuing boil-water order.

The size and complexity of contamination issues in Walkerton are unprecedented, he said.

"A whole host of questions has arisen because this is new. There has never been a municipal water supply this size contaminated with E. coli 0157," McQuigge said.

"You literally break new ground when you are looking at considering how safe is the process to clean it up," he said.

As a result, the health unit has hired a former Ministry of Health water-quality expert to consult on the issue. Now retired from the ministry, the consultant is to help regional health unit officials "analyze when the system is safe," McQuigge said.

As well, Ontario's chief medical health officer has arranged for an associate medical officer of health to be seconded to the Bruce Grey Owen Sound agency to deal with day-to-day issues and allow McQuigge to concentrate on the Walkerton crisis.

The provincial Health Ministry has agreed to pay for extra costs to the regionally administered health unit because of Walkerton.

However, continuing pressure from the crisis remains a daily issue for health-unit employees, not only in Walkerton but as a result of widespread water supply worries brought to light by the community's crisis.

"We're having hundreds of calls every day here around private water systems," McQuigge said. "So we're still very much in the thick of it."

-- Doris (, June 24, 2000


More Walkerton deaths linked to E. coli WebPosted Mon Jun 26 20:16:09 2000 ET

TORONTO - The E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ont. is being blamed for killing even more people.

The chief coroner's Office in Ontario had added another three deaths to the list of those suspected of being killed by E. coli in the town's water system. All three of the new victims were elderly women in their 80s.

In all, 21 deaths are being investigated.. Seven are confirmed to have been caused by E. coli contamination. bin/templates/NWview.cgi?/news/2000/06/26/walkerton000626

-- Martin Thompson (, June 26, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ