The Municipality of Brockton is launching the Walkerton Clean Water Legacy Scholarship to honour those who suffered because of the water crisis and to support local students wishing to pursue careers in environmental science or clean water management.
“We are very pleased to announce the creation of this fund, which will support youth in Grey and Bruce counties pursuing careers in environmental protection and clean water management,” said Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody. “While the 20th anniversary of the water tragedy is a somber occasion, through this fund we wish to acknowledge all who have suffered and offer our sincere condolences, while looking to the future and Brockton’s role in ensuring clean water for all.”
The fund will be administered through Community Foundation Grey Bruce, a charitable organization with over $1.8-million invested in education funds.
The Municipality has set aside $2,500 towards the scholarship fund, which will grow through donations from individuals and organizations. The Walkerton Clean Water Centre, a provincial government agency that has trained more than 95,000 people in clean water management, will also be contributing to the fund.
The scholarship granting committee will include representatives from Brockton Council, staff, and the WCWC.
“Congratulations to the Municipality of Brockton on launching a scholarship to benefit the education pathways of a new generation of students dedicated to clean water and healthy communities,” said Stuart Reid, executive director of Community Foundation Grey Bruce.
Carl Kuhnke, chief executive officer of the WCWC, also expressed his support. “The concept of providing a bursary or scholarship to a post-secondary student in environmental sciences or water is a great one and we are excited to be part of it,” he said.
The WCWC has partnerships with 15 post-secondary institutions and offers students in environmental sciences three-day, hands-on courses. It trains every water operator and manager in Ontario, plus municipal staff and mayors.
Establishing a centre of excellence for drinking water was one of the recommendations made by the Honorable Justice Dennis O’Connor during the nine-month Walkerton Commission inquiry that followed the e-coli crisis.
Steve Hrudey, who served on the Walkerton Commission and has studied waterborne disease outbreaks worldwide, reflected recently on the Walkerton tragedy. “The Walkerton Clean Water Centre may be the single most important legacy of the May 2000 disaster,” he said.
Hrudey was named to the Order of Canada for his advocacy of safe drinking water. He noted there have been 24 cases of waterborne disease outbreaks in affluent countries since Walkerton—all preventable—and said that education and training is paramount, along with continued vigilance.
The new Walkerton scholarship fund was to be unveiled at a commemorative event planned for May 9, 2020, which was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Brockton Council voted yesterday to proceed with the fund.
“I look forward to the Walkerton Clean Water Legacy Scholarship assisting many students in the years to come,” Mayor Peabody said. “This is something to be truly proud of.”
Walkerton resident and businesswoman Aleasha Reich was a young girl who became severely ill during the water crisis. She said the new legacy fund gives her a measure of hope.
“As someone who has experienced what can happen when our water systems are neglected, I want to thank you for taking environmental sciences and education so seriously,” she said. “This gives me hope for the future and our environment. Congratulations.”