Canada

"I do not consider myself a hero": Walkerton health official

Dr. Murray McQuigge, the man who first raised the alert about Walkerton's tainted water supply, defended his actions Wednesday under fierce cross-examination at a judicial inquiry.

The inquiry is looking into an outbreak of E. coli bacteria in the water that killed seven people and made more than 2,000 others sick.

During a pointed and frequently hostile cross-examination, the lawyer representing town officials accused McQuigge, the area's medical health officer, of trying to protect his own reputation, not the public interest.

Rod McLeod, lawyer for the municipality of Brockton, said McQuigge didn't need to go public with charges that the Public Utilities Commission was involved in a cover-up.

McQuigge shocked the town in May when he accused the commission's manager of witholding information that could have saved lives.

"Nonsense, nonsense," shot back an angry McQuigge. He insisted he had no choice because town officials, particularly the mayor, were dragging their feet about warning the public.

McQuigge said if they had been doing their jobs, he wouldn't have had to raise the alarm.

He denied he was simply seeking the limelight. "I do not think of myself as a hero," he said.

McQuigge added that the media labelled him as a "hero" and a "whistle-blower."

On Tuesday, McQuigge accused the mayor of damaging the health unit's credibility by not telling the public what he knew that test results showed E. coli in the water system.

McQuigge also said provincial cutbacks meant water safety was being compromised.

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