Closing arguments to begin at water inquiry

Final arguments to begin at Walkerton

After 10 months of testimony, the inquiry into the Walkerton water contamination begins hearing final arguments on Wednesday.

The inquiry has heard from dozens of witnesses in an effort to find out how the Ontario community's water supply was contaminated in May 2000 with deadly E. coli bacteria. Seven people died and more than 2,000 became ill.

The testimony was at times explosive, such as when former water manager Stan Koebel told the inquiry he had regularly faked records.

Ontario Premier Mike Harris took the stand in June to defend his government against accusations its policies led to the contamination.

In fact, media reports Wednesday morning say the government's strategy in its closing comments will be to blame Koebel.

Inquiry staff have gone through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

Now, the lawyers representing all the groups involved will get their last chances to state their cases.

"It's really the last opportunity that the parties can put forward the position they have in respect of what they feel the commissioner should find," said inquiry lawyer Paul Cavalluzo.

It's not up to the inquiry to find criminal responsibility for the outbreak a police investigation is under way to determine if charges are warranted.

But commissioner Justice Dennis O'Connor could name people who played a role in the tragedy.

After all the interested parties make their cases, O'Connor is expected to take four months to write his report. He is scheduled to deliver that report by the end of the year.