Canada

Walkerton inquiry told leadership was lacking

The Walkerton inquiry heard evidence that the community's water system was in such disarray nobody seemed to know who was supposed to inform the public when deadly bacteria was found in the water.

Seven people died and more than 2000 got sick after E. coli washed into the water system earlier this year.

Robert Deakin of A & L Laboratories told the inquiry he found traces of E. coli in the water two weeks before the outbreak.

He says when two wells showed high levels of contamination and so did the tap water in the PUC manager's home he passed the information on to the man he thought would sound the alarm.

"I would never contemplate that a manager of a public utilities commission would not do his duties," Deakin said. "That is something I would not contemplate."

But Deakin said after water testing was privatized in 1995, it was never made clear whose duty it was to inform the public.

The manager of the PUC who didn't sound the alarm was Stan Koebel. Dr. Murray McQuigge, the medical officer of health, sounded the alarm five days after Deakin says he gave the information to Koebel.

Koebel will get to tell his version of the story at a later date.

Today, a former senior government microbiologist will testify. Gary Palmateer is expected to explain Walkerton's history of water problems.

He'll also be asked to comment on Ontario's water supply and compare it to what it was like before privatization.

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