Remembering and Never Forgetting the Walkerton E. coli Tragedy

Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 11:00a.m.



Who Should attend?

Everyone involved in the water industry. We must never forget the Walkerton outbreak and pay homage to those who suffered and to those who started us on the path to recovery. Whether you are a new recruit or have years of dedicated service, this is a must-attend webinar. A reflection on past and present.

After you register, you will receive a registration confirmation email within 12 hours with instructions on how to join the webinar.



Today the news is consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is vitally important that we never forget past tragedies such as the Walkerton E. coli 0157 because they help prevent other similar reoccurrences. In May of 2000, Southern Ontario experienced several days of heavy rain. Weeks later, the Town of Walkerton had changed forever. Seven people died and 2,300 others suffered life-long health implications after E. coli had entered Walkerton’s drinking water supply. A provincial inquiry followed and determined that it was a combination of factors that lead to the town’s water supply being contaminated. This tragedy changed Ontario’s water industry landscape forever and has shaped the values and processes that we have today. But as we pass the 20th anniversary of Walkerton, it is not only a time to reflect on the lessons learned from the tragedy, but also a time to remember , and perhaps more importantly, a time to recommit as an industry, to ensuring that Ontario will continue to have the safest drinking water in the world. We owe it to those who lost their lives, and whose lives were changed forever in May of 2000. Join us on Thursday, May 28th and hear from key figures involved with putting our water industry on the path to recovery and those who wish to keep the Walkerton teachings in the forefront. This is your opportunity to ask your questions about what actually happened in Walkerton or the systems put in place immediately following or its legacy, the Walkerton Clean Water Centre.

Webinar HostMichael Mortimer (President, OMWA)

Webinar Presenters:

The Honourable Justice Dennis O’Connor 
The Honourable Justice Dennis O’Connor, formerly the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario and was appointed to oversee the inquiry into the Walkerton tragedy The Honourable Dennis O’Connor, formerly the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, is counsel in the Toronto Office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. He was appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1998 and served as Associate Chief Justice from 2001 until he retired at the end of 2012. While on the bench Mr. O’Connor wrote numerous judgments dealing with a wide range of issues including public, criminal, commercial, insurance and securities law. In addition, he conducted two successful public inquiries: The Walkerton Inquiry (2000-02) and the Maher Arar Inquiry (2004-06). Before being appointed to the Court of Appeal, Mr. O’Connor was a senior counsel at Borden & Elliot in Toronto for 18 years. His practice focused on commercial and public law litigation. He acted on many major cases in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada during that period. From 1980 to 1984 he acted as Chief Negotiator for the Government of Canada for Yukon Indian Land Claim. He served as an elected bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada from 1987 to 1995. Mr. O’Connor has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada and to the Order of Ontario. He has been awarded several honourary degrees. He has also received a number of awards including The Canadian Water Resources Association Distinguished Achievement Award

Carl Kuhnke 
Carl Kuhnke, was appointed the President & Chief Executive Officer of the Walkerton Clean Water Centre in 2017 Carl is the CEO of the Walkerton Clean Water Centre, the Ontario Government Agency that trains drinking water operators and develops technology solutions for drinking water issues in the province, including Ontario’s 134 First Nations. After 20 years as a Canadian Ambassador in 5 different countries, and Ottawa, he left for the private sector and co-founded technology firms on the west coast. He returned to public service as the leader of Saskatchewan’s Centre of Excellence for Infrastructure, and most recently returned to Ontario to lead the Walkerton Clean Water Centre.

James Smith 
James Smith, was Ontario’s First Chief Drinking Water Inspector, and as Assistant Deputy Minister, established the Drinking Water Management Division with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate ChangeMr. Smith is a Professional Engineer who has been active in the field of drinking water management and in the development of air, water and soil standards for the protection of the environment and human health. Mr. Smith’s career spanned over 30 years with the Ontario Government in which he held a range of science policy positions including: Director of Standards Development Branch, Ontario’s First Chief Drinking Water Inspector, and as Assistant Deputy Minister, established the Drinking Water Management Division with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. His work and the work of his division in the field of drinking water management has been recognized through a number of awards. Mr. Smith holds a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University and an MBA from the University of Toronto. Mr. Smith is currently the Chair of the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council.

Ed Houghton, Executive Director of the Ontario Municipal Water Association

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