A perspective on the Ontario town's water system tragedy.

The deadly E. coli bacteria.
So the two brothers who were in charge of Walkerton, Ontario's water system pled guilty to their part in the E. coli tragedy that killed seven people and left thousands ill in the spring of 2000.

You'll probably recall the situation: Walkerton's water system already was facing some difficulties when heavy rains sent quite a load of cow manure into the town's primary water wells, contaminating its drinking water supply with the deadly bacteria. The ensuing investigation found that the two men had falsified water-safety tests and did not properly disinfect the water, as was their responsibility.

Facing a variety of charges, they copped to one count each of common nuisance in order to have all the other charges dropped. The two face a maximum two-year stint. Not that that matters because, in reality, what they face is 'til-their-last-breath sentences of being pariahs. But many people feel strongly that they're getting off way too easily, that they should be looking at serious prison time, given the severity of the disaster. That certainly is worthy of debate.

Another debate: Even after all the time, effort and expense that went into the subsequent inquiry, has anything come out of it that would lead one to believe that such a thing never will happen again?

A cynic would see one of the lamest attempts at creating closure in recent memory, leaving us with two political scapegoats, a betrayed public and a whitewashing job that would make North Korean officials duly impressed.

I have a difficult time accepting that justice is being served by having a couple of drones take the whole whack while the politically protected bureaucrats - who created the environment for such a disastrous situation in the first place - maintain an obviously flawed system. It's not like these two guys were terrorists; let's face it - they're just not that bright.

The whole thing reeks to high heaven. After hearing enough butt-covering spin being puked up by responsibility-challenged and bureaucracy-dependent gold-brickers, you experience a most-compelling urge to take a long, soapy shower. I'm halfway surprised that they didn't try to find a way of blaming the whole thing on the cows. And the cows were the only ones in the whole affair that actually were doing what they were supposed to be doing - and doing it quite well by the way, thank you very much.

I'll give the brothers this: They admitted that what they did was wrong, accepted responsibility, demonstrated remorse and apologized.

So now we're supposed to think it's over.