May 2000...

In the small Ontario town of Walkerton, the contamination of a municipal well with E. coli has caused as many as eighteen deaths. Hundreds of residents are suffering from stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and fever, symptoms which result from drinking water contaminated with the deadly bacteria.

Friday, May 12, a storm hit southern Ontario and floodwaters believed to have been contaminated with E. coli from cattle manure are suspected to have entered Walkerton's water supply. While there are no final figures, officials are saying the water-born E. coli outbreak in Walkerton appears to be the largest outbreak of its kind ever in North America.

Chronology of Key Events

Jan. 18, 2002
The O'Connor report is released to the public in Walkerton.
Jan. 14, 2002:
O'Connor delivers report to Government of Ontario.
Aug. 27, 2001
O'Connor Inquiry wraps up Walkerton hearings.
Dec. 5, 2000
MHO lifts boil-water advisory.
Oct. 16, 2000
Public inquiry under Justice Dennis O'Connor begins.
Aug. 26, 2000
New drinking-water laws take effect in Ontario.
May 31, 2000
Ontario Premier Harris orders public inquiry.
May 26, 2000
Police begin probe.
May 24, 2000
Medical officer of health, Dr. Murray McQuigge, declares E. coli outbreak Canada's worst.
May 23, 2000
MHO's own lab confirms water is tainted with E. coli.
May 22, 2000
First death directly linked to E. coli.
May 21, 2000
MHO begins independent water testing, issues boil-water advisory.
May 19, 2000
Region's Medical Health Office (MHO) first notified about patients with bloody diarrhea. PUC assures health officials that the water is safe. MHO begins looking for other source of contamination, such as food.
May 17, 2000
Many residents of Walkerton fall ill, complaining of bloody diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever. Tests of water sampled May 15 reveal E. coli contamination.
May 15, 2000
Local Public Utilities Commission (PUC) takes routine sample of water supply and sends it to lab for testing. PUC receives a fax from lab confirming E. coli contamination in May 15 water sample. Water manager Stan Koebel fails to notify Environment Ministry or public health office.
May 12, 2000
Storm washes bacteria from cattle manure into one of Walkerton's town wells.
The YES I Can! Science database contains curriculum-linked classroom activities to assist students in understanding the importance of this natural resource...clean water.

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