Polluted water kills four in Walkerton
In May 2000, bacteria seeped into Walkerton's town well. The deadly E. coli then slipped quietly through a maze of pipes and into the homes of Walkerton, Ont. Unsuspecting residents thirstily drank the polluted water and bathed in their bacteria-ridden tubs. But soon after, they began experiencing common symptoms of infection; bloody diarrhea and throbbing cramps. Seven people would eventually die and another 1286 would fall ill. The investigation which followed exposed an alarmingly unstable waterworks system made fragile by government cuts.
Orange emergency helicopter ambulances descend on the town to airlift critically ill patients to a larger, specialized hospital in neighbouring London, Ont. Walkerton residents are distressed and demand to know why they weren't told earlier. Town officials are on the defensive and medical officers are baffled by this growing epidemic, as reported in this CBC News report.
• Dr. Murray McQuigge, the regional medical officer of health for the Grey-Bruce Health Unit, wrote in his final report on the tragedy that 2,300 people became sick after drinking the tainted water. Of this total, 1,286 of the stricken were residents of Walkerton -- a staggering 26 per cent of the town's total population.
• Walkerton's emergency room treated 725 people in the last two weeks of May -- more than double the average traffic the emergency room normally sees.
• McQuigge estimated that if an event like this had taken place in New York or Paris, 4 million people would have become sick and 14,000 would have died.
• As of May 24, 2000, the time of this report, four people had died. The timeline unfolded as follows:
- Lenore Al, 66, died May 22, 2000
- Edith Pearson, 83, and Mary Rose Raymond, 2, died May 23
- Vera Coe, 75, died May 24
- Laura Rowe, 84, died May 29
- Betty Trushinski, 56, died May 30
- Evelyn Hussey, 84, died of kidney failure as a result of the E. coli poisoning on July 25, 2000
• Water management in Canada is a responsibility shared by the province and the municipalities.
• Walkerton is situated 150 kilometres northwest of Toronto. In 2000, Walkerton's population was numbered at 4,800.
• One day after this report, medical health officials revealed that human negligence was the cause of the outbreak, as shown in this clip.
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 24, 2000
Guest(s): Graham Pollett, Pam Schlosser, Jennifer Stewart, David Thomson, Dianne Warram
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Raj Ahluwalia
Last updated: June 12, 2012
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
All Clips from this Topic
Four people have died and hundreds more are sick after drinking pollut...
The London ER unit has treated over 200 people and fielded over 500 ca...
Dr. Murray McQuigge makes a stunning declaration about who is responsi...
One Walkerton restaurateur describes how it's not business as usual.
Dr. Eleanor Fish explains what this deadly bacteria is and how it thri...
Ontario Premier Mike Harris and Public Utilities Commissioner Stan Koe...
Microbiologists descend on Walkerton to track the source of the deadly...
From dawn to dusk the Davidsons avoid turning on the troublesome taps.
Former Public Utilities Manager Frank Koebel makes stunning admissions...
Walkerton Public Utilities Manager Stan Koebel admits to falsifying re...
In his testimony before the Walkerton Inquiry, Stan Koebel admits to f...
An out-of-court settlement has been reached with the people of Walkert...
Walkerton's local town council approves a controversial buyout package...
"Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the people of Walkerton, to al...
One Walkerton resident says the blame fell rightly on the provincial g...
In rural Canada, providing clean drinking water continues to be a chal...
Walkerton residents discuss the criminal case of Stan and Frank Koebel...
In May 2000, bacteria seeped into Walkerton's town well. The deadly E....