Sentencing Announced in Walkerton Water Tragedy
The former manager of Walkerton, Ont.’s utilities commission was jailed for one year today for his role in the 2000 tainted-water tragedy, while his foreman brother was sentenced to nine months of house arrest.
In sentencing Stan and Frank Koebel, Ontario Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno acknowledged the "enormous" suffering that resulted from the water contamination, which killed seven and sickened 2,500 in this tiny southern Ontario town.
But he suggested the Koebel brothers were not solely to blame.
"No sentence I could impose, can assuage the enormous losses," Durno told a packed courtroom. "But, the offenders are not being sentenced for being the cause of the Walkerton water tragedy."
Stan Koebel was to begin his jail term immediately, while his brother would return to his home in Walkerton.
Frank Koebel's conditional sentence will see him confined to home, but allows him to go out for a couple of hours on Saturday and to attend church on Sunday.
The sentencing of the brothers likely marks the end of a criminal process that began amid the shock, horror and confusion of the E. coli outbreak in May 2000.
The brothers were charged with public endangerment, fraud and breach of trust, but a plea bargain last month saw them both plead guilty to risking public safety by failing to monitor and treat the water properly.
The charge, formally called common nuisance, carries a two-year maximum jail sentence.
Prosecutors said the Koebels lied, withheld key information and tried to cover up their misdeeds even as people were dying in the rural town of 5,000.
The tragedy was sparked when heavy rains washed newly spread manure from a farmer's field into a well long known to have been vulnerable to contamination.