Walkerton's Drinking Water Protection Legacy

In May of 2000, the water supply in the town of Walkerton, Ontario was contaminated with E. coli. As a result, seven people lost their lives, thousands became ill and many live with lasting complications to this day. 

The tragedy was a wake up call for Canadian citizens and leaders. The municipal tap water that everyone assumed was safe without a second thought had become contaminated and Ontarians could no longer take drinking water for granted.

Now 20 years later, the CELA team and their partners are revisiting their time working on the Walkerton case in an effort to document an important piece of Canadian environmental history.    Read the full article here.

In May of 2020 we created the following video interview series to examine the continuing legacy of the Walkerton Inquiry. These videos serve as a reminder of the need for constant vigilance in the protection of the environment and human health. 

Jim Smith, the first Chief Drinking Water Inspector for Ontario and current chair of the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council, speaks about the role of regulation compliance measures and independent advisors in maintaining the multi-barrier approach to drinking water protection. 

Former CELA Executive Director and member of the team that represented the Concerned Walkerton Citizens Paul Muldoon discusses the important role that the Walkerton community played in strengthening Ontario drinking water protections and the power of grassroots environmental organizing. 

Chair of the Concerned Walkerton Citizens and CELA board member Bruce Davidson speaks about his memories from the Walkerton Inquiry. He also discusses the need for Ontarians to stay vigilant and remember that safe drinking water cannot be taken for granted. 

CELA counsel Richard Lindgren discusses the multi-barrier approach to drinking water protection that was built in response to the Walkerton Inquiry. He talks about the danger of deregulation and the need to stay vigilant in the pursuit of safe drinking water. 

CELA Executive Director and counsel Theresa McClenaghan talks about her involvement in the Walkerton Inquiry and the Ontario government’s improved drinking water protection system that came as a result of it. She also discusses the need for continued work in Ontario and Canada to address the drinking water issues that persist in some remote communities and First Nations.  

Jim Merrit, a lifelong water professional who played key roles in the Walkerton Inquiry and served as the first chair of the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council, discusses the importance of remembering that we cannot take drinking water for granted. 

CELA paralegal and researcher Fe de Leon speaks about her role as document manager during the Walkerton Inquiry and sheds light on the important work being done behind the scenes. She talks about the need to uplift Walkerton’s legacy and ensure that it is not forgotten by generations to come. 

Joseph Castrilli, CELA counsel, talks about his representation of the Ontario Water Works Association and the Ontario Municipal Water Works Association during the Walkerton Inquiry. He speaks about the role that interdisciplinary cooperation played in ensuring that the tragedy in Walkerton was not repeated. 

Ramani Nadarajah, CELA counsel and member of the representation team during the Walkerton Inquiry, speaks about the role that mandatory drinking water regulation compliance played in regaining the trust of Ontarians after Walkerton. She discusses the close link between public health and strong environmental laws and the importance of keeping this relationship top of mind as we move forward.

The Walkerton Inquiry and it's Legacy in Provincial Law

The Walkerton inquiry and the report it generated resulted in an overhaul of Ontario’s drinking water regulations and was the foundation for the province’s Safe Drinking Water Act.  Following are links to more information about CELA’s involvement in the Inquiry representing the Concerned Walkerton Citizens and information about Ontario’s Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.