This is a story about an old mill - The 'Old Mill' of Toronto. But let's set
the stage with a word on the "Walkerton" of the title.
The title refers to a cost-saving softening of Ontario governmental standards on
things like the quality of tap water (and the responsibility for monitoring and
reporting on it) throughout the mid 1990s. In the town of Walkerton, Ontario the
"voluntary compliance" of the reporting system wasn't effective in May 2000 when
E.coli was detected in a well but essentially ignored for 9 days. Thousands became sick
and seven died.
A judicial inquiry, convened in October 2000, heard jaw-dropping testimony from
Walkerton public utility personnel who admitted they were incompetent to run the
water works and that their misconduct ranged from chronic on-the-job drinking to
falsifying water safety tests. In fact they had withheld test results as
people were falling ill.
Also culpable in the events, the inquiry found in January 2002: the Government of
Premier Mike Harris. As the government had scaled back water safety standards they
had done so by guesswork, and had in fact conducted no risk analysis. So the story
goes from one gut-feeling to another, none of them very good.