Canada

Walkerton inquiry lawyer says stop the 'blame game'

A lawyer at the Walkerton inquiry says there were several events that contributed to the town's E. coli tragedy that were beyond the control of Stan Koebel.

Bill Trudell defended the former water manager in his final submissions Tuesday and countered what lawyers for the Ontario government told the inquiry in their closing arguments last week.

Trudell said that while Koebel and his brother Frank admit to making "stupid" mistakes, neither man was trained properly to do his job and did not understand the importance of the water tests.

Trudell also criticized the government for putting most of the blame on Koebel and said he wasn't responsible for the confusion that resulted from government cutbacks to the Environment Ministry.

"Stan Koebel is not responsible for the government's decision to get out of the lab business," Trudell said.

"The government, in (its) submissions, tried, convicted and punished Mr. Koebel," he said. "The blame game has got to stop."

Trudell said Koebel had no control over the location of the well that became contaminated with E. coli, presumably from cattle manure.

Seven people died and more than 2,000 others became ill from drinking their tap water in May 2000.

Koebel testified at the inquiry that he had falsified reports and that he lacked training for the job as general manager of the Public Utilities Commission.

He also admitted he knew the water was contaminated at the time illnesses were reported, but didn't tell either the public or town officials.

Also on Tuesday, the lawyer for Koebel's younger brother Frank spoke at the inquiry. Dave Miller said his client was poorly trained as a foreman at the PUC.

The inquiry is expected to submit its final report later this year.

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