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					Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                                                     Contents

Contents                         Safe drinking water is a prime resource for all humans and something we in
                                 Canada may have taken for granted. The tragedy that occurred in the town of
Introduction                     Walkerton, where several people died and many more were made very sick by
                                 the presence of E. coli bacteria in the municipal water supply, is not only an
                                 important and ongoing news story but is also a case study for resource
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 management at the most fundamental level, in the local municipality. This is a
any drop to drink"               story that raises issues of public accountability, political decisions and policies,
                                 public trust and confidence, and the possibility of environmental threats that
Time Is of the Essence           directly affect us in our homes. As an illustration of the need to assure and
                                 preserve clean and safe drinking water, Walkerton has unfortunately become
The Basic Facts of E.coli        symbolic of a universal issue and not just an isolated and tragic incident.


A Tragic Flaw?

Other Dangers Inherent in Poor
Water Quality

Discussion, Research and Essay
Questions

Index

                                 Contents
                                 Introduction
                                 "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                                 Time Is of the Essence
                                 The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                                 A Tragic Flaw?
                                 Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                                 Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                                 Index
Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                                                   Introduction

Contents                         In May 2000 Canadians were shocked by the deaths of at least six people and
                                 at least 2000 more who became ill in Walkerton, Ontario, as a result of E.coli
Introduction                     contamination of the local water system. Every day countless deaths are
                                 reported in the news; the constant flow of stories of death and disaster is such
                                 that usually we can distance ourselves from the events. But the deaths of
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 those six people in small-town Ontario had a profound impact on most
any drop to drink"               Canadians. The realization that what happened in Walkerton could happen
                                 anywhere in Canada gave the events a significant immediacy and personal
Time Is of the Essence           relevance. In a wealthy country endowed with bountiful natural resources, the
                                 possibility of drinking water being unsafe seems unthinkable. The outbreak in
The Basic Facts of E.coli        developing countries of dreadful diseases, such as cholera, that kill thousands
                                 of people as a result of polluted water, are generally seen as events happening
                                 to anonymous people in distant lands. We might feel pity for the sufferers, but
A Tragic Flaw?                   the story seems far away because we can't imagine a situation where our own
                                 water supply our most basic resource could actually kill us. Walkerton brought
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   this fear home to all Canadians.
Water Quality                    Water is one of the most fundamental human needs. We can survive weeks
                                 without food, but with no water we would be lucky to last a week. In Canada we
                                 have always taken fresh drinking water for granted, assuming an endless
Discussion, Research and Essay
                                 supply. But fresh drinking water is not as abundant as we might think. Only one
Questions                        per cent of the world's water is drinkable, and although Canada possesses 10
                                 per cent of that water it is constantly being exposed to many forms of
Index                            pollutants, not just E.coli bacteria. According to water ecologist David
                                 Schindler, climate change, acid rain, human and animal waste, ultraviolet
                                 radiation, airborne toxins, and biological invaders will endanger all our water
                                 supplies within 50 years. The story of Walkerton has also brought to the
                                 public's attention the crucial issue of resource management. This News in
                                 Review story is therefore a case study not only of the specific and tragic events
                                 that led to water contamination in Walkerton, but in a more general context, is
                                 also a warning to monitor carefully this essential resource and to examine the
                                 importance of long-term thinking in its protection and preservation.
                                 Walkerton has been referred to as a tragedy. In the classical and dramatic
                                 sense, tragedy implies a great flaw in a character, which results in that
                                 individual's downfall. Was Walkerton a tragedy? Was there one or more human
                                 flaws that in turn led to six deaths and many people falling ill? Was the
                                 outcome preventable? Who should be held accountable? The Public Utilities
                                 Manager who failed to report to the public the presence of E.coli contaminating
                                 the drinking water? The provincial government that shifted the responsibility of
                                 maintaining water plants and water testing to local municipalities and cut the
                                 number of inspectors whose job it is to ensure that water utilities maintain
                                 proper standards? The industrial farming that is believed to have been the
                                 source of the E.coli contamination? Or was it the fault of all of us who assume
                                 we will always have fresh water, while doing little to conserve or protect it? One
                                 thing is certain, and that is that the public's faith in the government to protect it
                                 from harm has been shaken because providing safe drinking water for its
                                          citizens is one of the most basic functions of government. Walkerton now
                                          points to a larger issue, that of public trust, confidence, and accountability. Can
                                          we trust our governments to protect us?

                                          Contents
                                          Introduction
                                          "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                                          Time Is of the Essence
                                          The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                                          A Tragic Flaw?
                                          Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                                          Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                                          Index




Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                       "Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink"

Contents                         The above quote from The Ancient Mariner by the English Romantic poet
                                 Samuel Taylor Coleridge has been used by many media sources to
Introduction                     communicate the tragic irony that underscored the events in the community of
                                 Walkerton, Ontario. The fear of unsafe drinking water, however, has not only
                                 occurred among the people of Walkerton; many Canadians are also now
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 considering the safety of their own water and what their governments are doing
any drop to drink"               to maintain water quality. As a result of the Walkerton tragedy fundamental
                                 political, social, and ethical questions have been raised. As you watch this
Time Is of the Essence           News in Review report, formulate answers to the following principal questions
                                 that form the framework of this news event.
The Basic Facts of E.coli
                                 Questions of Accountability
                                 1. What do officials suspect is the source of the E.coli bacteria that got into the
A Tragic Flaw?
                                 water supply in Walkerton?
                                 2. Why were town officials being blamed?
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   3. Why was the Ontario government of Mike Harris criticized?
Water Quality                    4. The Ontario Government has promised new laws governing water quality
                                 standards. However Dr. Murray McQuigge, Walkerton's Medical Officer of
Discussion, Research and Essay   Health, is critical of this new plan. Why?
                                 5. What happened in cities and towns across the country after the Walkerton
Questions
                                 tragedy was widely reported in the media?
                                 6. Why is this a news story that affects all Canadians?
Index                            Implications and Ramifications
                                 Now, considering the answers below, suggest why these questions are far-
                                 reaching.
                                 1. Heavy rainfall washed E.coli-contaminated cow manure into one of the three
                                 wells from which Walkerton draws its water.
                                 2. The Walkerton Public Utilities Commission Manager didn't tell anyone about
                                 the E.coli contamination until the Medical Officer of Health confronted him with
                                 independent laboratory results confirming the contamination.
                                 3. The Mike Harris government was blamed for years of cutbacks to the
                                 provincial budget, privatization of government services, and the downloading of
                                 costs from the province to local communities, which some believe had a
                                 negative impact on the quality of water standards.
                                 4. McQuigge said: "You can't announce something like that and not have
                                 adequate staff to do it," suggesting that regulations are ineffective unless you
                                 have enough people to put them into practice.
                                 5. They began to test their water, and a good many of them found that there
                                 were problems with their own water quality.
                                 6. Some critics say that Canadians have taken clean drinking water for granted
                                 for too long.
                                 Follow-up Discussion
                                 The people of Walkerton want answers to their questions. Having now watched
                                 the video, what questions do you think most need to be answered? Why? In
                                 small groups, formulate at least three questions. Compare your list with that of
                                          other groups.

                                          Contents
                                          Introduction
                                          "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                                          Time Is of the Essence
                                          The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                                          A Tragic Flaw?
                                          Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                                          Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                                          Index




Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                                          Time is of the Essence

Contents                         In order to come to any conclusions regarding the lessons that Walkerton
                                 offers it is necessary to learn what happened and when. In this story timing
Introduction                     was especially important; it actually meant the difference between life and
                                 death. The following is a brief summary of the events that led to the death of
                                 six people, and the devastation of a community. As you study this chronology,
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 think about why the element of time is at the core of this news story.
any drop to drink"
                                 Early April 2000 A chlorinator, used to purify water, begins to break down at
Time Is of the Essence           the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This is the local organization
                                 that is responsible for keeping the water safe. Since there is no back-up
The Basic Facts of E.coli        chlorinator the manager orders a new one; however, it will take up to two
                                 months to arrive.
A Tragic Flaw?
                                 April 7 Provincial environment officials receive a fax from the private lab that
                                 tests Walkerton's water saying that four of eight tests indicate that water might
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   be contaminated. Three days later the environment office receives further
Water Quality                    evidence of possible contamination. The office calls Stan Koebal, the manager
                                 of the Walkerton PUC, who tells them the water is fine.
Discussion, Research and Essay
Questions                        April 24 Another round of testing is performed. The results don't indicate any
                                 contamination from E.coli. However it is later revealed that the samples were
Index                            not taken from the well with the damaged chlorinator. Walkerton's water comes
                                 from three wells. The well with the poorly working chlorinator was not checked.
                                 Once more Koebal tells the environment office that everything is fine.

                                 May 12 There is a severe storm in the area. Flood water, probably
                                 contaminated with E.coli from pig and cow manure, gets into the water supply.

                                 May 15 Koebal sends a further batch of samples to be tested, but to another
                                 lab.

                                 May 18 The PUC receives a fax from the lab confirming E.coli contamination of
                                 Well Seven, the one with the malfunctioning chlorinator.

                                 May 19 The region's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Murray McQuigge, is
                                 informed that the local hospital has had several cases of bloody diarrhea, a
                                 sign of E.coli poisoning. Koebal assures McQuigge that the water is safe. The
                                 Medical Health Office (MHO) therefore begins to look into other causes for the
                                 sickness.

                                 May 20 As many as 40 more people report to hospital with bloody diarrhea. An
                                 anonymous caller telephones the Ministry of the Environment's Spills Action
                                 Centre claiming that Koebal has received test results indicating contamination
                                 of the water supply. Both Chris Johnston from the Ministry, and McQuigge from
                               the Medical Health Office contact Koebal, who insists that the water is safe.

                               May 21 With more cases of illness reported, the Medical Health Office officially
                               warns residents not to drink the water. The MHO also takes its own
                               independent water samples, no longer trusting the PUC's reports.

                               May 23 The MHO's lab confirms that the water is polluted with E.coli bacteria.
                               McQuigge of the MHO confronts Koebal with the test results. Koebal admits to
                               having received a fax on May 18 that showed that the water had E.coli in it.
                               Health officials are also informed that the chlorinator in Well Seven has not
                               worked for some time. By this time six people who have drunk the water and
                               become ill have already, or will soon, die. At least 2000 others will become ill,
                               many seriously.

                               May 24 McQuigge issues a press release stating that the town officials knew
                               about the problem for nearly a week, and that had they acted on the
                               information sooner, deaths might have been prevented.

                               Follow-up Questions

                               1. Find two examples in the story of moments where timing was so important
                               that it determined the outcome of the events. Explain the connection.
                               2. From what you know at this point, how do you think the deaths of the six
                               people in Walkerton might have been prevented?
                               3. How did the water become polluted with E.coli in the first place? Why wasn't
                               the water cleaned or purified at the public utilities commission?
                               4. Time, timing, chance, and circumstances affect all our lives on a daily basis.
                               Suggest how each of these played a role in the Walkerton tragedy. How do
                               they play a role in your own life? While answering these questions, explain
                               carefully the difference between these four words.
                               5. There are many descriptive and metaphoric expressions in English that use
                               the word and concept of time: "Time heals all wounds," "Time will tell," and
                               "working against time" are some examples. How might each of these be
                               applied to this news story? Can you think of others?

                               Contents
                               Introduction
                               "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                               Time Is of the Essence
                               The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                               A Tragic Flaw?
                               Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                               Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                               Index




Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                                          The Basic Facts of E.coli

Contents                         Since Walkerton became the worst case of E.coli poisoning in Canadian
                                 history many Canadians are now acutely aware that E.coli can be a killer. This
Introduction                     section presents some of the basic vocabulary of the Walkerton tragedy and
                                 will help you gain a deeper understanding of the facts and a broader
                                 awareness.
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
any drop to drink"
                                 What is E.coli?
                                 E.coli is short for Escherichia coli. It is a type of bacteria found in the intestines
Time Is of the Essence           of animals and humans. There are hundreds of different kinds, or strains, of E.
                                 coli, some of which are harmful, but most of which are not. The variety that
The Basic Facts of E.coli        struck Walkerton is known as E.coli 0157:H7. This type produces a powerful
                                 toxin, or poison, and can cause severe illness and even death. E.coli 0157:H7
                                 was first identified in 1982 in the United States when 47 people developed
A Tragic Flaw?
                                 severe stomach disorders. The cause of these disorders was traced to ground
                                 beef patties that were contaminated with the harmful variety of E.coli. Because
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   E.coli can be caught from eating undercooked contaminated ground beef it has
Water Quality                    been called the hamburger disease. However, the bacteria can also be caught
                                 from consuming unpasteurized milk and apple cider, ham, turkey, roast beef,
Discussion, Research and Essay   sandwich meats, raw vegetables, cheese, and of course water.
Questions
                                 Once infected, people do not necessarily die. Some people develop mild
                                 diarrhea. You may even have had a mild strain of E.coli yourself and never
Index
                                 realized it! In more serious cases there is severe diarrhea, which is often
                                 bloody, as well as very painful stomach cramps. The most severe cases tend
                                 to be with young children and elderly people because their immune systems
                                 are not as able to fight the infection. In children the infection causes red blood
                                 cells to be destroyed, and the kidneys can fail. Even if a child recovers from
                                 such a serious illness they may have permanently damaged kidneys and other
                                 serious health problems for the rest of their lives. In an elderly patient E.coli
                                 can cause strokes, which may kill. However, in most cases people recover with
                                 the help of antibiotics after five to 10 days of treatment.

                                 E.coli and Water Contamination
                                 If E.coli comes from hamburger meat, how does it get into water, you may ask?
                                 The answer is through human and animal waste. During heavy rains E.coli in
                                 the form of animal manure from farms may be washed into creeks, rivers,
                                 streams, lakes, or even groundwater (underground sources of water). Human
                                 sewage can do the same thing if it comes into contact with the water sources
                                 just listed. When this polluted water is used as a source of drinking water and
                                 the water is not treated properly, E.coli may end up in the drinking water as it
                                 did in Walkerton. The more manure in the area of water sources, the greater
                                 the likelihood that water may become contaminated during flooding. This is
                                 why factory farming, as it is called, has been blamed for the water
                                 contamination at Walkerton. The good news is that by testing water samples
                                 we can find out if water is contaminated with E.coli and then treat the water
with chlorine or other substances to destroy the bacteria. The bad news is that
the water in Walkerton was not properly treated with chlorine.

Follow-up Questions and Activities
1. Are all types of E.coli bacterial harmful? Explain your answer carefully.
2. When E.coli 0157:H7 was first discovered, what was the source of the
contamination? Was it water as in the Walkerton situation? Why is this
question so important?
3. What food products can E.coli contamination be found in? What implications
does this have for all of us in our daily lives? Consider where, how, and when
you buy, prepare, and serve food. Why is proper hygiene far more than the
lessons our parents teach us? Why is science a critical area of expertise in
terms of the production, supply and delivery, and preparation of food?
4. How does E.coli get into the water supply? Can the water be treated? What
sciences and what career fields are directly related to water supply systems?
In small groups, make a list of jobs and special fields of knowledge that are
directly related to water supplies.
Task Forces
Form three groups or "task forces" to research and study various aspects of
water. Initially, brainstorm thoughts and ideas using the information below and
then, using encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, and the Internet, prepare an
overview presentation for the class.

1. Water: The Source of Life: What is the "continuous hydrologic cycle" of
water? What does the Earth's atmosphere have to do with our water? What is
the importance of evaporation and water supplies? What is "water yield?" What
is "runoff" and in what parts of Canada can this be a serious problem? What do
fishing, navigation, recreation, and wildlife habitats have to do with water? Why
is Canada's history directly and closely linked to water? What is irrigation and
what is its importance to Canadians? Why are most cities and industries in
Canada river- and lake-oriented?
2. Water Distribution Systems: Why do we need systems? What systems
exist? What are those systems composed of? What keeps them running? How
does the fact that 80 per cent of Canada's population is urban affect these
systems? What are the implications for Canadians who are not urban? What
do the terms inter-governmental co-operation and water management have to
do with this issue? How is water obtained and distributed throughout Canada?
How do rising costs and public opposition to land-use changes affect water
supplies and distribution? What does "efficiency" have to do with water
distribution?
3. Water Treatment: Why have humans always had to treat water even in the
most simple ways? What is the importance of the words quality and minimum
standards to water treatment? What is the importance of the following in water
treatment: temperature, colour, turbidity, odour and taste/palatability, micro-
organisms, chemical treatments, screening, flocculation, sedimentation,
filtration and adsorption, distillation and reverse osmosis, aeration, coagulation,
softening, pH adjustment, ion exchange, disinfection?

Contents
Introduction
"Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
Time Is of the Essence
The Basic Facts of E.Coli
A Tragic Flaw?
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
Discussion, Research and Essay Question
Index
Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                                                A Tragic Flaw?

Contents                         If we can detect E.coli in the water and if we can treat it with chlorine to make it
                                 safe to drink, then what went wrong at Walkerton? That is the question that the
Introduction                     Walkerton Inquiry is attempting to answer. Was there a single great and
                                 irrevocable mistake that caused this tragedy, or was there a series of mistakes
                                 and circumstances? More and more it is beginning to look like the latter is true.
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 Many elements seem to have unfortunately come together to produce the
any drop to drink"               poisoning of the water supply. As you read this section, consider to what extent
                                 each of the following might have contributed to the tragedy.
Time Is of the Essence
                                 1. A Faulty System of Rules and Regulations?
The Basic Facts of E.coli        In all bureaucracies it is necessary to have rules and regulations in place so
                                 that serious errors do not occur. In the case of Walkerton it seems that the
                                 regulations that were in place were not strict enough to prevent a deadly
A Tragic Flaw?
                                 outbreak of E.coli. If this could happen in the richest province in Canada, then
                                 it could happen anywhere. Such was the fear of many Canadians, and with this
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   fear they also began questioning whether their various levels of government
Water Quality                    were adequately protecting them from danger. The tragedy of Walkerton raised
                                 the issue of the public's confidence or faith in their governments to act in their
Discussion, Research and Essay   interest. It has been suggested that a lack of federal and provincial regulation
                                 was responsible, at least in part, for allowing the situation to get out of hand
Questions
                                 without anybody knowing about it except Stan Koebal, the PUC manager.

Index
                                 2. The Lack of a National Standard?
                                 Some environmentalists have called for the federal government to establish a
                                 set of binding regulations for water quality that every province would have to
                                 follow. Currently, however, water quality standards are basically the
                                 responsibility of provincial governments. Federal and provincial governments
                                 have co-operated on the federal-provincial subcommittee on drinking water,
                                 which regularly updates guidelines for water safety. But these guidelines are
                                 not legally enforceable, they are merely suggestions. Each province and
                                 territory bases its water safety policy on these guidelines. Only Alberta and
                                 Quebec have legislation legally requiring that specific standards be followed
                                 province-wide.

                                 3. Inefficient Intergovernmental Communication?
                                 Another problem with the lack of regulation that influenced the deadly outcome
                                 of Walkerton was that although most provincial governments receive water test
                                 results directly from the testing labs, in Ontario and Quebec the government
                                 relies on municipal water utilities to let them know if anything is wrong with the
                                 test results. In the case of Walkerton there was no regulation that said that the
                                 PUC had to inform the government of the presence of E.coli contamination. If
                                 there had been such a regulation perhaps deaths might have been prevented.
                                 In Ontario there has been a storm of criticism and a public perception that the
                                 government's failure to create and enforce a set of effective water safety
                                 guidelines contributed to the tragedy.
                                                                                                 Click to Continue>>>

                                          Contents
                                          Introduction
                                          "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                                          Time Is of the Essence
                                          The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                                          A Tragic Flaw?
                                          Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                                          Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                                          Index




Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton



                                 part 2
                                                                A Tragic Flaw?

Contents                         4. The Lack of Timely, Current Testing, and Adequate Staffing?
                                 What exactly is in place to regulate the quality of water in Ontario? There is no
Introduction                     standard act of government whose rules and regulations all water utilities have
                                 to obey. A Crown Corporation known as Ontario's Clean Water Agency
                                 oversees about a third of the municipal systems in the province. The province's
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 role in monitoring water quality depends mainly upon water utility inspections
any drop to drink"               by members of the Ministry of the Environment and the Drinking Water
                                 Surveillance Program, which tests water in 145 of 627 water utilities, but this
Time Is of the Essence           provincial body dropped E.coli testing in 1996 due to cutbacks. Aside from this,
                                 each of Ontario's 650 municipal water systems carries a Certificate of Approval
The Basic Facts of E.coli        (COA), which is supposed to outline the municipalities' legal requirements for
                                 operating the system. However, some of these certificates date back 40 years,
                                 long before the government introduced its new drinking water objectives, which
A Tragic Flaw?                   contain the requirements for testing the supply and reporting the
                                 contamination. These requirements are not legally binding if they are not
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   written in the certificate. Walkerton's COA was 20 years old. That means there
Water Quality                    was no legal requirement to report the E.coli hazard to either the Ministry of the
                                 Environment or the local Medical Officer of Health. Critics have asserted that
                                 without universal standards and up-to-date certification and lacking legal
Discussion, Research and Essay
                                 requirements for testing and reporting water conditions, an accident like
Questions                        Walkerton was waiting to happen.

Index                            5. Cost Cutting?
                                 The administration of Premier Mike Harris has been criticized not only for
                                 failing to provide a comprehensive system of water standards, but also for
                                 shifting the responsibility of water safety to municipalities and reducing the
                                 number of government inspectors who check water utilities, in an attempt to cut
                                 costs. Before the Harris government came to power in 1995 government labs
                                 tested the samples that were sent to them from water utilities, but when the
                                 Conservative Party came to power in Ontario they closed all four government
                                 labs, and municipal utilities were given the task of testing their own samples
                                 using private labs. Had the Walkerton samples gone to a government lab, the
                                 trained government staff would presumably have realized the danger and
                                 notified the Medical Health Office as well as the Public Utilities Manager. In the
                                 case of Walkerton the private lab did tell Stan Koebal about the presence of E.
                                 coli, but critics speculate whether Koebal did not realize the importance of this
                                 information and therefore did not pass the information on to the MHO. It is
                                 important to note that Koebal, like many utilities managers, is not a scientist or
                                 engineer. Given that there are many varieties of E.coli that are harmless it may
                                 not be surprising that he did not realize the serious danger that it posed. This,
                                 critics say, is why it is preferable that labs inform the Ministry of the
                                 Environment if they detect tainted water since their employees have much
                                 more scientific training. To further cut costs the government ended the
                                 obligation of private water labs to inform the government of tainted water.
                                 Having eliminated government water testing and also having eliminated the
                                          need for private labs to report water contamination to the government, the
                                          Ontario Government left the responsibility of water safety in the hands of the
                                          municipalities. In the case of Walkerton that came down to one man who made
                                          a mistake. There was no procedure for sharing the information among different
                                          levels of the government and the public. Had such a procedure been in place
                                          the outcome of Walkerton might have been less tragic.

                                          6. A Reduced Network of Human Resources?
                                          The Ontario Government also came in for criticism for cutting 40 per cent from
                                          the Environment budget and laying off 900 of the Ministry of the Environment's
                                          2400 employees. These are the people whose job it is to keep an eye on all
                                          sorts of pollution and ensure that organizations follow environmental rules. This
                                          included terminating 42 per cent of the staff assigned to looking after drinking
                                          water. This determined how many inspections of water utilities could be done.
                                          For example, before the cuts in 1993-1994 the province carried out 470
                                          inspections a year, but in 1998-1999 that number was down to 152 because 37
                                          district environment officers, who conduct plant inspections, were laid off.
                                          Would an inspection have made a difference at Walkerton? It's hard to tell, but
                                          it is certainly a human characteristic that we are more likely to do something
                                          thoroughly if we know we are going to be examined on it. Would you do your
                                          homework if you knew the teacher wasn't going to show up the next day?

                                          <<<Back to Part 1                                     Click to Continue>>>

                                          Contents
                                          Introduction
                                          "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                                          Time Is of the Essence
                                          The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                                          A Tragic Flaw?
                                          Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                                          Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                                          Index




Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton



                                 part 3
                                                               A Tragic Flaw?

Contents                         7. Reduced Government Intervention in Social Institutions or the
                                 Democratic Process?
Introduction                     The Harris Government's "Common Sense Revolution" was based on the idea
                                 that there should be less government regulation and services and more
                                 reliance on the business world to enrich society as a whole. Tax cuts and a
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 balanced budget were promised, and these promises were fulfilled. However
any drop to drink"               tax cuts and balanced budgets mean that you have to cut costs. For a
                                 government this usually means cutting social services like health, education,
Time Is of the Essence           and costly programs like environmental protection procedures. With less
                                 regulation and fewer people to enforce existing regulations, services become
The Basic Facts of E.coli        less efficient and reliable. As a result, many citizens of Walkerton have blamed
                                 their provincial government for not doing its job to protect their welfare. But
                                 doesn't the will of the majority of voters determine what a government's role is
A Tragic Flaw?                   to be? This government was elected on the basis of less regulation, a balanced
                                 budget, and tax cuts. They did what they said they would do and the voters of
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   Ontario agreed with their plan. If the government is in part responsible for the
Water Quality                    tragedy of Walkerton, then does not that responsibility extend to the voters of
                                 Ontario? Money is always limited, and we have to decide whether we would
                                 prefer that money in a tax cut or spent on services to protect us. Rather than
Discussion, Research and Essay
                                 simply blame the government, people need to decide what is most important to
Questions                        them. According to some, a thorough overhaul of Ontario's water system is
                                 needed, and may cost nine billion dollars. Are Ontario taxpayers prepared to
Index                            pay that price for good drinking water?

                                 8. Industrial "Factory" Farming?
                                 So far we have looked at what happened when E.coli got into the Walkerton
                                 water system, and how a lack of regulation and enforcement may have
                                 contributed to the tragedy, but how did the water become polluted in the first
                                 place? It was mentioned earlier that E.coli-contaminated manure was probably
                                 the culprit. Remember that on May 12, 2000, there were heavy rains in the
                                 area and it is suspected that floodwaters swept E.coli-contaminated pig and
                                 cattle manure into a drainage pipe of one of the Walkerton wells. Most small
                                 municipalities across the country use groundwater as a source of their drinking
                                 water rather than surface water like lakes and rivers, which large cities usually
                                 use. Groundwater is water naturally existing in underground reservoirs.
                                 Groundwater originates above ground as rain but soaks through the ground
                                 into porous channels in the earth. As the water seeps down, the soil acts as a
                                 natural filter straining out impurities, which means that most groundwater is of
                                 very good quality. To obtain groundwater, municipalities dig wells in the ground
                                 and pump the water up. At Walkerton it is suspected that during flooding,
                                 contaminated water entered the casing at the top of one of the wells, or a
                                 nearby drainage pipe. It was because the bad water entered the pipe that the
                                 water supply was poisoned; if the water had just soaked into the soil it would
                                 most likely have been purified by the time it became groundwater.
                                 The poisoning of water in this manner has brought up the issue of what is
called factory farming. It used to be that across the country there were
thousands of farmers who might, perhaps, own 100 head of cattle; but in
recent years the livestock business has become industrialized, meaning there
are fewer farms, but they are much larger. For example, in Alberta there are
now only 50 beef producers who control 80 per cent of the province's
slaughtered beef. The feedlots where the cattle are kept may hold 25 000
cattle in a space the size of a city block. That many cattle produce a great
amount of manure in a small space; manure that is then spread directly on
fields.
This scenario is pretty much the same everywhere in Canada. Up to now
governments across Canada have encouraged factory farming, deeming it
highly cost- and revenue-effective. The idea behind it is that by jamming
animals together into huge barns farmers will be able to cut costs and sell
products more cheaply. Canada's hog business alone is a multibillion-dollar
industry that employs 100 000 people. Before Walkerton the Ontario
government, among others, was reluctant to regulate the industry, but under
continued pressure they have recently allowed municipal governments to ban
factory farms on a temporary basis until laws for handling the tonnes of manure
they produce are in place. Keep in mind that it has not been proved that the E.
coli-contaminated manure came from a factory farm; it may have come from a
single small independent farm. Still, the existence of huge unregulated farms
generating thousands of litres of liquid manure a day increases the chances of
pollution. This type of farming was discussed in a provincial water commission
in Quebec that criticized the Quebec government for allowing farmers to
contaminate water with manure, pesticides, and fertilizer. Even if it was not the
direct source of contamination in the Walkerton tragedy, factory farming does
pose a serious threat to the environment. Dr. Murray McQuigge of the Medical
Health Office in Walkerton has said that "poor nutrient management on farms
is leading to the degradation of the quality of groundwater, streams, and lakes."

Accountability, or "Who's to Blame?"
Often when something as horrible as what happened at Walkerton occurs
people want to quickly blame someone. They do this because they don't feel
safe until they have corrected what went wrong. The problem is sometimes
that there is a tendency to make a scapegoat out of a few individuals because
it is easier to punish a few people than to recognize that the problem is much
deeper and more complex to fix than we would like to think. It's normal to want
a simple answer, but in the case of Walkerton, many observers suggest that
there isn't one. Many factors contributed to the outcome.

Aftermath, Truth, and Consequences
Working in small groups, read this section again and discuss what you
consider the salient points. Then as a group, brainstorm a list of five
recommendations that you would make to a government body conducting an
inquiry of the Walkerton tragedy. Compare your results with those of other
groups but most importantly follow this ongoing story and, perhaps by creating
a bulletin board clipping file, trace and summarize the aftermath of Walkerton.

<<<< Back to Part 2

Contents
Introduction
"Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
Time Is of the Essence
The Basic Facts of E.Coli
A Tragic Flaw?
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
Discussion, Research and Essay Question
Index
Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                          Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality

Contents                         With the current intense focus on E.coli, other threats to safe drinking water
                                 may go unnoticed or be less publicized. There are, however, many other
Introduction                     dangerous substances in drinking water and some that are just as harmful.


"Water, water everywhere, Nor    Three Types of Water Poisoning
any drop to drink"
                                 1. Microbiological: This includes bacteria, of which E.coli is only one kind. It
                                 also includes parasites like Cryptosporidium and Giardia, which live in the
Time Is of the Essence
                                 intestines of humans and animals, and though they are not usually as deadly
                                 as E.coli, are harder to kill even with chlorine. Most microbiological hazards are
The Basic Facts of E.coli        short-term threats; you suffer the effects of the poisoned water quickly.

A Tragic Flaw?                   2. Chemical: Many chemicals can cause cancer. These can be naturally
                                 occurring chemicals or synthetic chemicals such as those found in pesticides
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   and fertilizers. Ironically the chlorine that we put in water to destroy the first
                                 type of water poisoning can create a second type of water poisoning.
Water Quality
                                 Disinfectants like chlorine can combine with decaying leaves and other
                                 naturally occurring organic matter to form compounds called disinfection
Discussion, Research and Essay   byproducts (DBP's). These compounds are carcinogenic, meaning they cause
Questions                        cancer. If someone is exposed to this type of pollution over a long time they
                                 may eventually get cancer. The U.S.'s Environmental Protection Agency
Index                            estimates that between two and 17 per cent of all bladder cancer cases in the
                                 United States may be due to DBP's in the drinking water. This type of long-
                                 term threat may be less obvious than the E.coli that killed six people at
                                 Walkerton, but it kills a lot more people. One thing to keep in mind is that it is
                                 usually the obvious and quick disaster like Walkerton that gets media attention.
                                 Slower, but even greater threats like cancer-causing chemicals in our waters
                                 may not get the media attention they deserve.

                                 3. Radioactivity: As in the case of chemical poisoning, radioactive
                                 contamination can be either naturally occurring or synthetic. An instance of the
                                 synthetic variety is the poisoning that took place at the Chernobyl nuclear
                                 power plant in Russia when there was an explosion and a massive radiation
                                 leak.

                                 Furthermore, the spread of factory farming, the common use of pesticides, and
                                 the large variety of industrial toxins being pumped into the environment
                                 constantly threaten our water supply. According to Brad Fairley of Agriculture
                                 Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, parts of Western Canada
                                 have some of the worst water in North America; meanwhile in Judique, Cape
                                 Breton, residents were recently warned that their water contained high levels of
                                 trihalomethane, a carcinogen byproduct of water treatment. In Moncton, New
                                 Brunswick, in 1997 tests found dangerous microbiological bacteria in the water,
                                 which forced the 80 000 inhabitants to boil their water for five weeks. These
                                          cases indicate that the Walkerton tragedy is not an isolated example of water
                                          pollution.

                                          Contents
                                          Introduction
                                          "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                                          Time Is of the Essence
                                          The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                                          A Tragic Flaw?
                                          Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                                          Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                                          Index




Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed
Deadly Water:
The Lessons of
Walkerton




                                            Discussion, Research and Essay Question

Contents                         1. In large cities drinking water usually comes from surface sources such as
                                 lakes and rivers and is filtered at large water treatment facilities. Towns usually
Introduction                     use wells to tap groundwater and have smaller facilities. Find out where your
                                 water comes from and ask someone from the local water treatment centre to
                                 come in and discuss water treatment and water hazards.
"Water, water everywhere, Nor
                                 2. The Walkerton Inquiry is an ongoing independent investigation into the
any drop to drink"               cause of the events leading to the tragedy. Access its Web site at www.
                                 walkertoninquiry.com or write to it at: The Walkerton Inquiry, 180 Dundas
Time Is of the Essence           Street West, 22nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1Z8. Maintain a summary
                                 "advisory" of the current findings of the inquiry.
The Basic Facts of E.coli        3. The people of Walkerton will not be able to drink tap water for months. In
                                 small groups think of all the tap water you use in a day and what you use it for.
                                 Be specific and make a list. Then imagine that you couldn't use any of it for a
A Tragic Flaw?                   month. How would this affect you, your family, and your neighbourhood?
                                 4. In Canada more than four million people use private wells for their drinking
Other Dangers Inherent in Poor   water, and surface water often serves as the only supply for cottagers and
Water Quality                    campers. These sources can become contaminated and require disinfection.
                                 Go to the Health Canada Web site at www.hc-sc.gc.ca and search for "water
                                 treatment devices." What are the different types of water treatment devices
Discussion, Research and Essay
                                 available for these sources of water? How do these devices disinfect the water?
Questions                        5. Air quality has just as much an effect on our health as water quality. The
                                 federal Auditor-General's office recently criticized the federal and provincial
Index                            governments for a decade of inaction on improving air quality. Smog alone
                                 reportedly kills 5000 people a year in Canada. Research what the major
                                 pollutants of air quality are, and examine ways in which air quality might be
                                 improved. You might want to start your research at Environment Canada's
                                 Web site at www.mb.ec.gc.ca.
                                 6. What should the role of government be? Some people believe in a hands-on
                                 type of government that strongly regulates various industries in the public
                                 interest. Others believe in a hands-off form of government where the
                                 government only provides the minimum amount of control and regulation and
                                 gives individuals and the private sector the most freedom. What model of
                                 government do you prefer? Why? Consider governments that you are aware of
                                 that follow either of the above models.
                                 7. Water is a limited resource, meaning that we can run out of it. Research
                                 some ways in which we can save this most necessary ingredient for life. Start
                                 researching at the Health Canada Web Site given above. Search under "water
                                 facts." Also try Environment Canada's Web site.
                                 8. Water is often used as a metaphor in literature, perhaps because it is
                                 essential to human life. Look up water in Bartlett's Dictionary of Quotations (or
                                 at its Web site at www.bartleby.com) and examine all the entries. What does
                                 water symbolize in these quotations? What properties or characteristics of
                                 water are used as similes or metaphors? Explain your choices.
                                          Contents
                                          Introduction
                                          "Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink"
                                          Time Is of the Essence
                                          The Basic Facts of E.Coli
                                          A Tragic Flaw?
                                          Other Dangers Inherent in Poor Water Quality
                                          Discussion, Research and Essay Question
                                          Index




Comprehensive News in Review Study Modules
Using both the print and non-print material from various issues of News in Review, teachers and students can create
comprehensive, thematic modules that are excellent for research purposes, independent assignments, and small group
study. We recommend the stories indicated below for the universal issues they represent and for the archival and historic
material they contain.

"The Clean Air Act," December 1990
"Environmental Cleanups: Who Pays?" Oct. 1998
"Sour Gas: Alberta Stand-off," September 1999

Other Related Videos Available from CBC Learning
Does Your Resource Collection Include These CBC Videos?

Water: To The Last Drop
Howe Sound: Poisoned Waters
Canada's Water Supply (series)
Watershed

				
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