WALKERTON, Ont . -- Two grocery stores here helped provide pure water to a community stricken by E. coli contamination of its municipal water supply, even as the supermarkets themselves had to import water for store use.
At least seven people have died since mid-May of the intestinal bacteria, authorities said, and about 1,000 have become ill.
Ray Wright, owner of Wright's Knechtal Food Market, said "None of the tap water can be used. Even if you wash in it, you must rinse your hands in a bleach solution."
Wright, whose 8,000-square-foot store is in the midst of an expansion, said that his store split the cost of donating the first tractor trailer with major Canadian retailer Sobeys, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, with Sobeys donating the second, trucking it in from Kitchener. Mike Murphy, owner of Murphy's Value Mart, donated two trailers of water to the Walkerton community center, where residents picked it up.
Companies such as Feversham Springs, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have brought in bottled water, said Murphy.
His store is running entirely on bottled water, and had to install a 1,600-gallon tank to hold water that is used to clean the store, Murphy said.
Sales have dropped dramatically, probably by at least 30%, Murphy added.
A multimillion-dollar compensation package for residents and businesses of Walkerton was announced June 8.