This paper will present a case study of the Walkerton, Ontario water tragedy. In particular the paper is concerned to analyze what happened to determine guilt. Who is responsible for what was ultimately a preventable toxic contamination of a town's water supply? What does this tell us about the larger issue of water management, both in Canada, and in an international context? Water is a limited resource that has often been characterized as limitless. The Walkerton tragedy reveals that haphazard, neglectful, and inefficient management of resources at the local level occurred, but also will reveal a syndrome of mistakes at all levels of the water management system. As the Walkerton crisis reveals, public management of water testing in Ontario was not a perfect or even well-operated system, revealing a lack of an overall legislative basis upon which to maintain a safe drinking water supply in Ontario. (Perkel, 2002, O'Connor Report, 2002, CELA documents, CBC, Cooper, 2003) This case therefore points to larger systemic problems in the way government deals with a fundamentally necessary resource for human survival – available safe drinking water.
[...] These include “urban, agricultural and environmental water interests.” (Gleick, Singh and Shi: The Walkerton case reveals a lack of a well managed public water system in Ontario, as well as many other parts of Canada. (CELA, 2001) . As Peace and Mazumder (2007) write Walkerton was a big enough event to be understood as an epidemic, as was a similar case in Wisconsin in 1994. But many such incidence may occur in smaller numbers without great community notice. (Peace and Mazumder: 60) The necessity of strict inspections and monitoring are therefore essential, as are tracking of diseases to make sure they are not spreading. [...]
[...] Murray McQuigge, who would be one of the people in authority lax in dealing with the crisis in Walkerton when people were getting sick, at that time vetoed Robinson-Ramsay's request that the town hire a new public work manager who would be highly trained and qualified to oversee the water system, believing that the Environment Ministry would make such a decision if it was necessary. (Perkel: 39) In 1999, as part of its privatization policies, the Harris government decided to sell off Ontario Hydro, with the purpose of deregulating the electricity market. [...]
[...] (Perkel: 30) The play along attitude of ministry officials, town counsellors, employees at the Walkerton water agency, all point to systemic problems that pre-exist the Harris government downsizing, but which reveal reasons why the decisions to downsize only make the crisis, when it happened, more severe. Throughout their tenure the Koebel's fudged the numbers when doing chlorine measurements and water log sheets. (Perkel: 31) Perkel's account reveals that in 1997, for only the third time in a decade, a Ministry of the Environment inspector came to Walkerton, despite the fact that, “Previous inspections had turned up numerous deficiencies, including the presence of potentially dangerous E. [...]
[...] (Gleick, Singh and Shi: 11) Cholera used to be a problem in North America and Europe prior to the development of “modern sewage and water-treatment systems.” (Gleick, Singh and Shi: 11) There has been an increase in the spread of cholera and severity of the outbreaks since the 1990s, however, in some areas of the world, including Peru and nations in Latin America. Reports on the causes of these rises in cases points to the way that nations are “falling behind in providing adequate sanitation and clean water, particularly in large urban areas.” (Gleick, Singh and Shi: 11) The cost to society of not providing safe water is much greater than the cost of implementing systems which are technologically possible. [...]
[...] (CELA, 2001) Therefore, Walkerton reveals the larger problems of a public system that should have worked but didn't. The blame therefore is systemic. Bibliography Canadian Environmental Law Association, Walkerton Inquiry” a data base of documents on Walkerton and water-inspection issues. (http://www.cela.ca/celacourts/detail.shtml?x=1381) CELA (2001) “Tragedy on Tap: Why Ontario Needs A Safe Drinking Water (http://cela.ca/uploads/f8e04c51a8e04041f6f7faa046b03a7c/sdwaexsrecs.pdf) CBC Canada online, “Walkerton Tragedy” collection of on-line stories about the Walkerton Tragedy. (www.cbc.ca/news/background/walkerton) Cooper, K. (2003). Trusting the Tap: One Key Lesson from the Walkerton and North Battleford Tainted Water Tragedies Is the Need to Protect [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee