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MILLERSBURG -- Gary Horrisberger is passionate about safe drinking water. Water quality is more critical today than previously thought.
"We can do without eating food for weeks and weeks, but if you don't drink water, you get dehydrated and the kidneys shut down," Horrisberger said. "Our body is 70 percent water. Water regulates our body temperature, moves the blood around and eliminates waste. Water is most important for humans. Without water we don't survive."
The best thing for humans is tested water, knowing that it's safe to drink. Is your water safe to drink?
"You can hold up a glass of water and it looks as clear as can be, but bacteria can still be in there," Horrisberger said.
Horrisberger manages Holmes Laboratory, the only Ohio EPA certified water bacteria lab in Holmes County.
Horrisberger tells of a grandpa who developed a spring on his farm; he lived there; now, his son lives there, and he feels OK.
That's OK, but how do you know if you couldn't feel better than OK.
"If you are constantly exposed to levels of bacteria, with a good immune system, you build up immunity," Horrisberger said. "But what if you have a visitor stop by and they drink some water and develop some stomach issues. They might blame it on the flu or something they ate."
Chances are, there is something wrong with the water.
"We had another situation where a child had to go to Akron Children's Hospital because he was getting so dehydrated, from being sick and the doctor says he thought it looked like E.coli," Horrisberger said. "The father called me and told me he wanted to find out what was making his child so sick. I asked him about the water, and he said he was renting; just moved into a place that had spring water. We tested it and it was almost 100 times more than what would be considered safe.
"The father told me he was feeling sick the same day he took his son into the hospital, but he had a stronger immune system."
Many times people buy property or rent, and they assume that when the water comes out, in the kitchen sink or into the house, it's OK. There is more awareness now that you know the water is safe to drink.
"We had another situation where a couple was going to get married, and the girl's parents were going to host the party. The parents had spring water," he said. "The groom's father told the host family that he wanted to check the water before hosting the reception, and the bacteria test came up very high. The father told them either to bring in fresh water for the wedding or they're not hosting it."
Horrisberger said there is a greater awareness of water quality, health wise, than has ever been before.
These are just a sampling of the problems out there with springs, wells and other water supplies.
Fortunately for Holmes County residents, Holmes Laboratory is available to test your water four days a week, with next day results.
"We're the only certified lab for bacteria, and we can collect samples Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and have them done the next day," Horrisberger said.
Who would need an EPA certified sample?
In Holmes County we have a lot of different people who would need that. Anything that is not public water; if you're on Millersburg or Berlin water, you don't have to have your own EPA certification of water, because the village does it for you.
If you have a business in the country, you might have a health permit through Holmes County. An example would be a food service or RV park. It could be a church house or a bulk food store; using the utensils to get the bulk food subdivided into smaller categories or packages. They have to rinse their utensils in water, so they have to make sure their well water has no bacteria in it.
Even church houses. If they're having a large gathering serving food, they're required to be tested.
Camp grounds that are open year-round are required to monthly monitor their wells.
"The health department has a lot of food permits and they call on different establishments that are on their own well water. One of the requirements is a bacteria sample. Food safety is very important," Horrisberger added.
"Businesses buying produce want to make sure the water that was used to wash and rinse produce has no bacteria in it."
Did you ever watch someone try to buy tomatoes?
"Produce going to the auction and to the store has been very carefully washed and rinsed to avoid bacteria, but then when it goes to the grocery store, everybody touches it," he said. "When you take it home, you should wash it again. We want to make sure that what we're selling to auctions has very clean water, because some of those springs we have tested have bacteria.
"Regulations force farmers to have to have good, clean water to make produce and sell it. But now, some health issues in families might be from bacteria, that would not have been found if not for the regulations," Horrisberger said.
"It's a good awareness,"
Holmes Laboratory was established in 1980 as an agricultural lab, and they have developed different testing services over the years including water, soil, feedstuff, compost, manure and mycotoxins.
Horrisberger points out that not only is Holmes Laboratory the only Ohio EPA certified water bacteria lab in the county, but all analyses is completed at the Holmes Laboratory location, 3559 U.S. Route 62, four miles north of Berlin.
Water samples must arrive within 24 hours of collection Monday through Thursday, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Directions and instructions for proper collection are all available through Holmes Laboratory.
The website, www.holmeslab.com has a wealth of information on water collection and testing and many other analyses. You can e-mail questions to email@example.com. The phone number is 330-893-1326.
For test kit pick-up and sample drop off, hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Reporter Kevin Lynch can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.