Walkerton is a small town in southwestern Ontario. On Tuesday last, May, 23, 2000, the town administration anounced that its water supply was contaminated with E. coli, variant O157:H7, the most virulent strain. It couses hemolytic uremic symdrome, recognized by its most obvious symptom--bloody diarrhea.

The chronology of the outbreak is disputed, and under outside police investigation, but seems to be this:

The laboratory that tested the drinking water of Walkerton was not certified for E. coli screening, A & L Canada Laboratories East Inc., a franchisee of a U.S.-based chain, apparantly sent test results to Walkerton on Thursday, May 18, showing E. coli contamination. Nothing was done.

By the next day, Friday, May 19, the medical officer of health, Dr. Murray McQuigge, a Harvard-trained public health specialist, received reports of the first cases of bloody diarrhea. He asked the Public Utilities Commission if the water was contaminated. He was told no.

This sceanario repeated on Saturday, May 20, and on Sunday, May 21, each day bringing more reports of stricken people to the medical officer of health. Each day he confronted the municipal authoritities. Each day he was told the water was safe.

On Sunday, May 21, Dr. McQuigge did what he could on his own authority--he issued a boil water order.

On Tuesday, May 23, the municipality admitted that there was an outbreak. But by then, five people had died--including children and seniors. Walkerton is a small town, and is unable to treat so many people fallen ill in so short a time. A call went out for medical personnel to assist, and the sickest were transported to London, Ontario.

Schools and day care centers were closed, and parents were being urged to have their children’s blood tested every second day for E. coli. The incubation period for this disease is 5 - 7 days, and the middle of the week was about that many days after a heavy rain storm which had, apparantly, washed the E. coli bacteria into the well from which the town draws its water supply. This strain of E. coli orignates in animals.

As of Saturday, May 27, 2000, the statistics were over 1,000 people afflicted, many children and seniors, whose immune systems are at risk, 4 children on Kidney-dialysis; more are expected to die.

It is the worst outbreak of E. coli contamination in Canadian history--and it's not yet over.

I live about an hour from Walkerton, even a bit less, and I can honestly say that they were completely and utterly stupid in dealing with it, and nevermind that, they were extremely negligent before the outbreak even occurred.

It should be noted that the pump that puts chlorine into Walkerton's water system hasn't been working properly since January of this year. It shouldn't be puzzling as to how E. coli could have flourished in untreated water. There is also talk of a broken sewer pipe somewhere.. that is speculation, the malfunctioning chlorine pumps is not.

Essentially, there is a lot of covering up going on, thus the police have been called in, and it is going to be a criminal investigation. I wouldn't be surprised if there are charges of manslaughter, actually, the general opinion of most around here is that there should in fact be murder charges of some degree. People died, more people are going to die, they did not have to, it is the fault of someone. Walkerton is in fact a small town, as themusic said, and for that reason the illness pales in comparison to the emotional trauma and tragedy the whole ordeal is having on the close-knit community.

People are very, very angry around here, I am utterly shocked, no not shocked, disappointed, that they could have been quite so stupid. They're trying pretty desperately to blame this on everyone else, but it is in fact the fault of those who could have prevented it because they knew, not those who would have prevented it had they known. Though, I'm beginning to wonder if it might have happened any way, judging by the slow reaction time.

Even after the people who are effected now are essentially over it, there are also unborn children, and long-term side effects to consider, such as severe kidney damage, among other things. There have been numerous water problems in Walkerton before this, as well as other little towns around here, possibly even mine, they just covered them up quite nicely. It's sad, really sad.. and scary, as well. I just wish even the media would quit spewing bull shit about it, stop trying to cover it up. It's too late, people are dead, and they're caught.

What is happening in Walkerton has a lot more to do with cutting corners that should have never been cut than anyone would like to admit. They say, considering that water testing is done by private companies instead of the government now, "No one wants to do the job because it doesn't pay very well". You ask anyone effected by this if they would have paid to get their water tested, their pump fixed, if they knew what was going on, and I can guarantee there would have been plenty sufficient funds.

People value their families far above their money, I think it's quite foolish that anyone thought differently. I also find myself wondering if the people who knew were drinking bottled water the whole time.. interesting thought. Any way.. don't believe everything you read, or hear on television. This is much more than an accident, this is a serious crime, and a blatantly stupid one at that.

As an end note of sorts, they actually do have an experimental drug in use treating the afflicted which was pushed through the system, and there isn't an extreme shortage of facilities to treat them in, though it is a bit strained. The Grey-Bruce Health Centre in Owen Sound has been taking many in, and I imagine the hospital in my town has been doing its share of accommodating as well. I guess it's always nice to see that people can pull together in such awful times, it's just too bad they had to in the first place.

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