Lab unaware Walkerton water was for drinking

A lab worker who detected high levels of deadly E. coli bacteria in water from an Ontario town last May told an inquiry Monday that he didn't know the samples were meant for drinking.

"Phone calls would have followed" had he realized the bottles came from Walkerton's main water supply, said Daniel Ormerod of MDS Laboratories in London, Ont.

But the samples from an engineering firm and another lab back in May were not clearly marked "drinking water," he said.

Ormerod testified that he acted within the guidelines of the Ontario Drinking Water Objectives by reporting the results directly to the town's water authorities, rather than to the health officers or the province's Environment Ministry.

A public inquiry is looking into the deadliest outbreak of E. coli bacteria in Canadian history.

Seven people died and thousands became ill when they drank contaminated water in May.

Regional health authorities have complained that they weren't notified about the tainted water supply quickly enough.

Investigators have concluded that the E. coli came from animal waste washed into a well near a cattle ranch during a heavy rain storm.