Zebra Mussel Myth #2: Zebra mussels must be eradicated

Once zebra mussels or quagga mussels are widely distributed throughout a large lake, there is little hope for eradication with currently available methods. In these cases, it is important to let go of the myth that invasive mussels must be eradicated. This myth feeds a common, but mistaken, perception that control measures are costly and futile once invasive mussels are firmly established.

Managing zebra mussels in vital infrastructure such as water treatment plants obviously requires a more practical strategy. Intake structures and pipelines occupy only a small portion of most lakes, yet they attract large populations of invasive mussels. Targeted control of zebra mussels in these spaces is often the best that can be done and all that is necessary to keep water flowing.

This is Dave Taylor’s approach. Taylor directs the Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District in Oklahoma. The WLMCD supplies water to six neighboring cities through 100 miles of pipeline extending from Waurika Lake. An unchecked zebra mussel infestation at the source would be devastating, but eradication from the lake is impractical. The lake covers thousands of acres and the cost to eradicate has been estimated at $12 million. Instead, the district treats its raw water for zebra mussels as it enters the pumping station. This prevents zebra mussels from colonizing the pipelines and infesting downstream water treatment plants, while keeping operating costs low.

A similar approach to high-value recreational areas makes better sense, both economically and environmentally, than simply canceling all control efforts once zebra mussels are established. Seasonal or periodic efforts to knock back zebra mussels around docks, marinas, and beaches could preserve these spaces for human use, while reducing the overall impact of the infestation on a lake’s ecosystem. The same method that keeps zebra mussels out of water destined for our taps could help keep our beaches free of razor-sharp shells . . . . Continue to read Zebra Mussel Myth #3

This article is the third of a five-part series excerpted from “Four Zebra Mussel Myths and Where They Went Wrong.” It is reprinted here with permission. The full article with references is available at Water Online. Copyright 2019.

About The Author

zebra mussel expert Dr. David HammondDavid Hammond is an environmental chemist who has consulted with private industry on topics including pest management, taste and odor problems, biological wastewater treatment, sustainability, and biomimicry. He holds a master’s degree from the Energy and Resources Group and a Ph.D. in Environmental Chemistry, both from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Hammond has four patents and several peer-reviewed publications and currently serves as senior scientist with Earth Science Laboratories, Inc.