WALKERTON, Ontario, Canada

WalkertonLifeVest

Walkerton Life Vest. 2002.

aCanoeingontheSaugeenRiverwearingWalkertonLifeVest

Wearing the Walkerton Life Vest while canoeing on the Saugeen River.

In Walkerton, Ontario, Canada during May 2000, two deadly bacteria (Escherichia coli 0157:H7 and Campylobacter spp.) entered the town’s drinking water supply when the Saugeen River overflowed its banks contaminating a well with cow fecal matter, killing seven people and infecting another 2,300 residents. Reports about the amount of chlorine in Well #5 had been falsified, adding political bungling to the town's list of problems. A small rural farming community one and a half hours north of Toronto, Walkerton had become synonymous with water-borne disease and death.

 

Fishing is an important component of this community, so the donated fishing vest became a repository for objects, newspaper articles, and personal stories about the tragic events related to their water supply. Rolled into a clear plastic tube sewn on the back of the vest is a strip of birch bark inscribed with the names of the seven Walkerton citizens who died: Their only crime was drinking a glass of water, an activity each of us takes for granted every day.

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