Economic toll high in Walkerton water disaster

New study shows Walkerton water tragedy has economic impact of at least $155 million, long term effects not included

The tainted water tragedy in Walkerton that claimed the lives of seven people had an economic impact of at least $155 million, according to a report to be released Monday.

Along with those who lost their lives, more than 2,300 people became ill when E. coli bacteria contaminated the Ontario town's water supply last year.

The report was commissioned by the judicial inquiry studying the event.

Economics professor John Livernois surveyed the people in town on a wide range of factors for his report.

"Household costs, business costs, costs of the epidemiological investigation, the helicopter ambulance, health studies, water testing," said Livernois.

Livernois said the costs of the seven dead and 2,300 sick are intangible, but were given a theoretical value of $90 million. "I wanted to separate putting a value on the loss of human life and suffering from the way I dealt with the more easily measured, less controversial costs."

He says more than $64 million was spent in the aftermath of the contamination, including about $8 million spent by the people of Walkerton.

The province of Ontario spent $32 million on health care, lawyers and the public inquiry.

Compensation claims could take years to process and the lawyer for the victims believes no amount of money will ever be enough.

The numbers in the study do not include unforeseen long-term health costs, or lingering effects on business and real estate values.