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Two Sentenced in Canada E. Coli Outbreak

December 20, 2004

TORONTO (AP) _ Two brothers who ran a water system that became contaminated with E. coli bacteria, killing seven people and sickening 2,300, were sentenced Monday for their role in one of Canada’s worst public health disasters.

Stan Koebel, the former manager of a town’s utilities commission, was jailed for one year, while his brother, foreman Frank Koebel, was sentenced to nine months of house arrest.

Flooding on May 12, 2000, washed cattle manure into a town well in Walkerton, a southern Ontario farming community of 5,000 people located 90 miles west of Toronto.

Within days, people began getting sick with diarrhea, nausea and other symptoms of E. coli contamination. Residents had to boil their tap water or rely on bottled water for almost seven months. The town’s water system was eventually overhauled at a cost of $10 million.

Justice Bruce Durno of Ontario Superior Court suggested the brothers weren’t solely to blame for the tragedy, but sentenced them because they faked water reports and failed to initially disclose problems with the water to officials. A commission of inquiry found that the Koebel brothers lacked the training and education for the job and lied to authorities to protect themselves.

The brothers were charged with public endangerment, fraud and breach of trust, but during a plea bargain in November they admitted to a lesser charge that carried a maximum penalty of two years.

Bill Trudel, the lawyer for the brothers, said he was disappointed and would consider whether to appeal the sentence.

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