Officials began to prepare for zebra mussel challenge


This shopping cart was left in zebra mussel-infested waters for a few months. The mussels have colonized every available surface on the cart. Photo by J. Lubner, Wisconsin Sea Grant, Milwaukee, Wis.

City and county officials preparing for the first onslaught of zebra mussels will meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks officials and any other interested parties at a meeting to be set in the near future.

Marty Fredrickson, Marion?s street superintendent who also is in charge of the city water plant, said he hopes to learn more about what the city can do at that meeting before the mussels become a problem.

He said he also wants to meet soon with water-plant operators at El Dorado to see what they do about the problem. Mussels are known to clog drainage and inlet points.

Once the mussels reach the water plants at Marion and Hillsboro from Marion Reser?voir, Fredrickson said they won?t be a problem because chemical treatments will kill them.

He said treating the water with potassium permanganate to kill moss or algae will also kill the mussels. In the unlikely event any mussels survive, they would be killed by the ozone treatment of the water.

Bobbi Strait, environmental health director for Marion County, said the mussels could create additional water-purification problems because they eat plankton.

She said cleaning the plankton from the reservoir opens the water to more light, which can encourage the growth of troublesome blue-green algae, which, in turn, creates toxicity problems.

?We spent all of this money removing buffalo and carp from the lake so plankton could grow,? she said, referring to the hiring of a commercial fishery out of Chase County earlier this year. ?Now these things are going to cancel that effort.?

The most critical clogging potential with mussels will be at the intake for the pipe that carries water to Hillsboro and Marion, Fredrickson said.

The problem may be worse for Hillsboro, he added, because Hillsboro pumps its water from the pipe before the remaining flow goes to Marion at its lower elevation.

That pumping, he said, will draw the additional zebra mussels.

Although chemical treatment of the mussels is possible, Fred?rick?son said, ?I?m sure the Corps isn?t going to allow chemicals that could back-siphon into the lake, killing fish and mussels.?

To clean the line, Fredrickson said cities may be able to use a mechanical scrubber that resembles a big rubber bullet.

If the problem becomes overwhelming, he said mussels may have to be removed by hand and scrapers, perhaps by professional divers.

The worst mechanical chore with mussels at the plant itself, Fredrickson said, will likely be pausing the operation long enough to clean up the shells left by dead mussels.

Fredrickson said he will continue studying the situation.

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