Canada

E. coli death toll could rise to nine

Posted: June 15, 2000
Last Updated: November 10, 2000

The Ontario coroner is investigating the possibility of more deaths linked to E. coli, as the provincial government announced it will order a public inquiry into the bacterial outbreak that has killed seven people so far.

The coroner's office has added a 92-year-old woman and a 69-year-old man to a list of deaths connected to E. coli entering Walkerton's water supply.

Chief Coroner James Young is also asking people in the area who have had a recent death in the family to contact his office.

ADVERTISEMENT

So far, six adults and one child have died from drinking water contaminated with E. coli. Twelve people remain in hospital, including four children who are in critical condition.

Premier bows to pressure

On Wednesday, Premier Harris changed his mind and said he would appoint a judge or retired judge to head up a public inquiry. Attorney General Jim Flaherty said the details on the inquiry will be released in 10 days.

Harris said earlier he wouldn't call a public inquiry, saying it would take too long as there were already investigations by the police, the coroner and the Environment Ministry underway.

The inquiry comes after days of heavy pressure from opposition parties. They are blaming budget cuts and privatization of water monitoring for the E. coli outbreak.

E. coli infected about 1,000 people in the Walkerton area. The magnitude of the infections has many people wondering how it happened.

It's suspected that heavy rains on May 12 flooded E. coli-laced manure from nearby farms into Walkerton's water supply.

Opposition parties say there should be better regulations of animal waste from farms.

Though Ontario toughened rules on monitoring and testing water this week, there's no indication it will take action on livestock waste. The government says there's no proof the E. coli contamination and farming are linked.