Ontario's top judge approves Walkerton settlement

Chief Justice Patrick LeSage endorsed Monday the class-action settlement over the Walkerton tainted water tragedy.

The decision from Ontario's top trial judge came after a "fairness hearing" on Monday to hear complaints from Walkerton residents who don't think they got a good deal in the settlement over last May's E. coli tragedy.

"I'm of the view that the settlement is fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the class," LeSage said.

Some residents are angry that the settlement assigns no blame, and would like to see punitive damages against Stan Koebel, the former manager of Walkerton's Public Utilities Commission, or the provincial government.

"People are really upset that the government is going to get off without any blame," said Ron Leavoy of a group called Concerned Walkerton Citizens.

Other residents believe this deal will prevent years of legal wrangling.

Class-action lawyer Scott Ritchie pointed out that the agreement was reached in just eight months at no cost to any of the victims.

Superior Court Justice Warren Winkler announced in February a deal whereby every resident in the town of 5,000 as well as visitors who got sick from the contaminated water would receive $2,000. Provision was made for those who believe they should receive more compensation.

On Monday, LeSage examined four written complaints objecting to the settlement that were filed by the deadline of March 1.

Another judge, Justice Dennis O'Connor, heads a judicial inquiry into the E. coli contamination that struck the town last May. The bad water killed seven and made another 2,300 about half the town seriously ill.