Something seems fishy. Is your well well?

by Michelle Wood, District Program Administrator

This time was going to be different. The cleverly designed fish tank sold me. The design seemed solid—when you add water, it flushes the dirty water into a reservoir while replenishing the tank with clean water, with no need to scoop the fish out. Simply empty the reservoir when the little red tab pops up, and bam!—clean fishbowl, happy fish, and up to 3 years of fishy entertainment, according to the “fish lifespan” info in the brochure that came home with our beautiful blue Betta. “He’s guaranteed to live for 30 days, or we’ll replace him,” the helpful salesperson at the pet store said at checkout. And, once again, my 12-year old son had talked me into another fish and all the accessories that go with it. 

And I will give Wyatt credit, he took good care of that fish. We had bought water conditioner to treat our tap water, so we had gallons of that that ready to go at room temp when we released “Calvin” into his new home. Wyatt fussed over him and replaced his water several times the first day and Calvin seemed content. When I came home from work on Day 2 it was another story…Calvin was listless and just hanging around. Despite frantic googling and various efforts, the little fellow was dead by nightfall.

Wait a minute, this poor fish lasted less than 48 hours. And the goldfish Wyatt won at the school carnival didn’t make it two days. And the Betta before this managed to live almost a month, but he really didn’t look good for most of it.  And the three minnows from the creek…God rest their souls. I hadn’t thought much about each instance, but as a group, it’s a little alarming.

Before you judge me, the mammals in our life seem to do just fine. We have a 9-year old bunny, and our dearly departed cat lived large until age 18.

Like most of us here in Holmes County, we have a well to provide our household water. When is the last time we’ve had the water tested? Um, the last time that shady guy tried to sell us a reverse osmosis filtration system, which was many years ago.

A quick search of well water produced this useful resource, “How Well Do You Know Your Well Water?”

which is a collaborative effort by various agencies. This is an excellent reference for those who own a well. It’s crazy how much time goes by without ever thinking about that all-important source of water that is critical to your household and health. And while they won’t give insight into drinking water safety, another good resource is the well logs made available through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for your own property well, or you are looking at a property and want well water information.

We get calls to our office all the time about testing well water. Our office has the equipment to test stream samples for limited parameters, but drinking water testing can only be conducted by a certified lab. The Holmes County Health Department collects drinking water samples as a service and sends them to a lab to be tested for total coliform with a “safe” or “unsafe” result. The cost is $50, and there is are very specific guidelines for taking a sample (call the Health Department at 330-674-8422 for more information). Holmes Laboratory near Winesburg also tests water ( specifies the various test options) so it’s nice to have a lab nearby if you want more extensive testing.

As of this writing I just dropped off my sample so I don’t have the results back yet. My husband thinks that if I would have taken Calvin’s water from our kitchen sink (which is softened and filtered) instead of the outside spigot (which isn’t treated at all—I thought “natural” would be better) the little guy might still be swimming laps. But I will feel better knowing that I have tested our water to make sure it’s safe to drink, which should be done on a regular basis anyway, and will hopefully give a happy ending to my sad fish tale.

Anybody want to buy a fish tank?


Michelle Wood, District Program Administrator

Michelle Wood oversees the day to day operations of the district and the diverse activities offered to promote clean water and healthy soil. With a lifelong passion for the outdoors and a background in communications, she appreciates the conservation district grassroots model which enables the local board and staff to create programs that meet the conservation needs of Holmes County.  Michelle is a member of several state and national committees.  Contact Michelle at 330-674-2811 or at