Latest E. coli in Walkerton not deadly

The E. coli found in an Ontario town's water supply earlier this month is not the same deadly strain that killed six people and left about 2,000 ill, officials said Saturday night.

Samples taken Sept. 2 and 3 confirmed the presence of the bacteria in Walkerton, but scientists warned residents that more testing was needed to determine if it was strain 0157.

The results released Saturday suggest there is not cause for alarm, according to Peter Harrison of the Ontario Clean Water Agency.

"This tends to confirm our belief that these aren't representative of new or further contamination of the system," Harrison told CBC Newsworld.

Some people in the town have lost all faith in the water supply, and have been demanding new wells, or a new water pipeline, be built. The town's water mains and pipes are being torn up and replaced.

A few people vowed to move if Saturday's results had shown a reappearance of a deadly strain of E. coli.

Ontario NDP Environment Critic Marilyn Churley has said it's time to give the people a Walkerton a totally new source of water. Some people have suggested piping in water from Lake Huron. Others have proposed a multi-million dollar treatment plant.

Harrison said the E. coli detected in recent samples might have been a mistake, or could have come from material dislodged from the inside of a pipe when the system was flushed or when sections were reconstructed.

"It's certainly unusual, and under other circumstances it might be surprising," he said.

"However with all of the disruption that's gone on in the Walkerton water supply, certainly things that might be surprising elsewhere may not be surprising in this location."

Even though Saturday's results may be a relief for Walkerton residents, Harrison conceded there are no guarantees of purity. People are still being advised to boil their water an order first issued when the deadliest E. coli contamination in Canadian history surfaced in May.

"There may be fecal contamination of the water supply," Harrsion said.

"However, we've carried out a great deal of effort to make sure that's not the case. And our continuous monitoring supports that conclusion."