Canadian Consulting Engineer

Walkerton inquiry sets stage for water supply in Ontario

February 1, 2002
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Consulting engineers in Ontario who are involved in water supply and treatment plants were listening closely to the...

Consulting engineers in Ontario who are involved in water supply and treatment plants were listening closely to the Report of the Inquiry into the Walkerton disaster when it was released at the end of January.
The Hon. Dennis O’Connor, who led the Inquiry, summarized his recommendations in the first part of his inquiry under 28 points. Among them were provisions for more frequent plant inspections by the Ministry of the Environment, and for certification and training for plant operators — at least 36 hours of MOE approved training every three years. Frank Koebel, the water systems manager at Walkerton, had failed to report contamination because he apparently did not know that certain strains of E-Coli bacteria could be fatal.
On the engineering/system design side, his recommendations reflect the fact that the Walkerton well contamination came from cattle manure that had travelled down several metres from a field at the surface into an aquifer during heavy rain.
His summary recommendations included one that the MOE develop criteria for identifying “groundwater under the direct influence of surface water.” That the MOE should maintain an information data system that includes all relevant information arising from an approval application process. That the MOE should require continuous chlorine and turbidity monitors for groundwater sources that are under the direct influence of surface water, or those that serve municipal populations greater than a prescribed size.
He also recommended that all Certificates of Approval (given to plants) should be limited to a time, probably five years, and be renewed taking into account current circumstances and recent indicators of the water quality and conditions.
Consulting engineers in Ontario have been doing considerable work for the Ministry of the Environment after it initiated a mandatory review of water works across the province following the Walkerton tragedy. Acres for example, have reviewed more than 160 facilities and submitted reports, have reviewing other engineers’ reports on facilities, and helped to draft the Certificate of Approval for the Ministry.
See the full Walkerton Inquiry Report at


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