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‘Wastewatergate’ sparks firing, probe

The supervisor accused of misleading the city about reporting a massivesewage spill in August 2006 was fired yesterday, on the same day thatcouncil approved an auditor’s probe into the incident.

The supervisor accused of misleading the city about reporting a massive sewage spill in August 2006 was fired yesterday, on the same day that council approved an auditor’s probe into the incident.

A memo to councillors yesterday from deputy city manager Richard Hewitt confirmed the employee had been fired less than 24 hours after city manager Kent Kirkpatrick suspended him without pay. City auditor Alain Lalonde will now investigate how the municipality was kept in the dark about the incident.

“We want to know who knew what when and why they didn’t tell anyone else,” Cumberland ward Coun. Rob Jellett said. “This has put us in the difficult position of doubting the information we get from city staff.”

A sewage gate malfunctioned on Aug. 1, 2006, spewing more than a billion litres of raw sewage into the Ottawa River before it was noticed on Aug. 15. Petrie Island, downriver of the spill, was closed 45 days that year due to elevated bacteria levels.

The supervisor claimed to have reported the situation immediately to the Environment Ministry. But it was discovered Tuesday that the province did not learn of the spill until May 2007.

Lalonde said he would begin his investigation quickly, though he warned the two-year time frame may pose difficulties in terms of retrieving e-mail correspondence and interviewing people who may no longer work for the city. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Environment announced its own investigation — one that could result in charges against the city.

- tim.wieclawski@metronews.ca

 
 
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