Debate over killing zebra mussels heats up at Texas Tech University

Apr 24, 2018

Science students hold lively debate over how EarthTec QZ kills zebra mussels.

LUBBOCK, Texas – What is the best way to kill zebra mussels? Students in Instructor Jamie Brazell’s Elementary Science Methods course have debated this question for the past two semesters. The Texas Tech University TechTeach instructor uses the project to teach the differences between physical, chemical and biological processes. This semester the discussion took a surprising turn.

For two days Brazell’s students argued to a standstill over a different question. Is EarthTec® QZ a chemical or biological solution to the zebra mussel problem plaguing Texas? EarthTec QZ is a copper-based, liquid molluscicide. After hearing the arguments for both sides, Brazell reached out to the product’s manufacturer, Arkansas-based Earth Science Laboratories.

“Quite frankly, I am unsure myself,” Brazell said. “This project is my favorite of all we do, so I am glad to get the conversation going outside the classroom. We asked the company whether they could shed some light on the question. Is EarthTec QZ chemical, biological or both?”

The answer is “yes,” said Earth Science Labs (ESL) CEO, David Nicholas in an email to Brazell. “Biological processes are all based on chemical reactions of some sort. Like humans, zebra mussels need copper as an essential natural mineral. Unlike humans, they don’t know when to stop eating it. The copper in EarthTec QZ disrupts what is basically their liver function and they die.”

Nicholas added that such debates help bring to light deeper assumptions about the value of chemical versus biological methods. “The best way to kill zebra mussels is the one that works the most effectively with the least impact on non-target species. That’s what EarthTec QZ does, so we’re comfortable leaving the question open to interpretation.”

Earth Science Laboratories Inc. manufactures advanced water treatment products for use in commercial, municipal and recreational waters. EarthTec QZ is EPA registered and approved for killing zebra mussels in open waters and pipelines. It is NSF Certified to Standard 60 as an additive to drinking water. More information is available at