Canada

Walkerton water bosses to plead guilty

The 2 brothers charged in connection with the E.coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ont. to plead guilty, avoid trial

The two brothers charged in connection with the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ont., will plead guilty next month and avoid a trial, the Crown announced Monday.

No details of the apparent plea agreement were released but sources have said Stan and Frank Koebel will plead guilty to public endangerment. In exchange, prosecutors will drop a hearing on two other charges.

Crown prosecutor David Foulds told reporters he consulted with E. coli vicitms before agreeing to a deal that will prevent a trial.

"I think I can say positively, I was influenced by what the citizens told me in my discussions with them," he said.

The brothers are charged with several counts of public endangerment, breach of trust and using false documents in the May 2000 tainted water outbreak that killed seven people and made about 2,300 people ill.

A hearing to enter the brothers' pleas has been set for Nov. 30.

Stan Koebel was the manager of Walkerton's water system at the time of the contamination and his brother Frank was the utility's foreman.

At a judicial inquiry into the public-health disaster, both men admitted they faked records of well water quality. They also said they allowed water to flow to town residents knowing it was not treated with chlorine.

The inquiry concluded that several factors played a role in the tragedy, including government cutbacks by former Ontario premier Mike Harris.

Despite the plea bargain, the Koebel brothers could still go to prison. The maximum sentences on conviction range from two to 10 years.

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