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The region's medical officer of health declared an end to the town's E. coli outbreak last night, but he fell short of telling residents they no longer had to boil their water.

Dr. Murray McQuigge, medical officer of health for the Bruce Grey Owen Sound Health unit, told a public meeting that no new cases of E. coli infection have been identified since June 9.

But he said it will be at least another three weeks before Walkerton's water systems, through which the bacteria was carried, will have been flushed and disinfected. He urged residents to continue boiling their water until further notice since the E. coli bacteria can live as long as 300 days.

"I know it's inconvenient, but it sure as hell beats having someone die," Dr. McQuigge said.

In late May, residents of Walkerton faced an outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 that killed at least seven people. More than 2,000 other people became sick after drinking contaminated water.

As of yesterday, plumbing systems in 850 homes, 148 apartments, three schools and several businesses had been flushed with a chlorine solution and disinfected. Every water main, fire hydrant and water valve has also been swabbed and flushed, said Wilf Argue of the Ontario Clean Water Association, the company completing the work.

But Mr. Argue said there are at least another 1,000 homes to go.

Meanwhile, a team of 30 provincial police officers will descend on the town of 5,000 for a weekend questioning blitz they hope will lead to answers about the contaminated water supply.

But Bruce Davidson, spokesman for Concerned Walkerton Citizens, a grassroots organization lobbying the government for help, said residents are tired of relating their sad stories and simply want clean water, not a sounding board.

"People are wondering how many times they have to tell the same story," he said.

Police admit that residents may have to answer similar questions down the road for other investigative bodies but maintain that this weekend's probe is a different because it will look at possible criminal activity related to the outbreak.

"We need to put the pieces of the puzzle together," said Superintendent Rick Kotwa in an interview.

At an information meeting in the town last night, residents learned how they can apply for financial help from a variety of programs.