Boat-washing sites planned to combat zebra mussels

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Times staff report

Boaters out on Minnesota lakes this weekend could encounter new boat-washing stations and inspectors designed to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species.

The state Department of Natural Resources purchased the portable decontamination units with funding provided by the Legislature to combat invasive species. The units are capable of spraying 160-degree water at high pressure to remove zebra mussels from boat hulls, livewells and other areas that can harbor invasive species.

The DNR plans to have the units along with trained staff at public accesses on high-traffic lakes that are infested with zebra mussels, such as Mille Lacs, Minnetonka and Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County. Only boats that don’t pass an inspection will need to be decontaminated with the new equipment.

The DNR plans to increase the number of decontamination units from three to a fleet of 20 or more by next summer.

The agency encourages boaters to follow a few steps before leaving an access to ease the process:

» Leave a little extra time for the inspection.

» Remove visible aquatic plants and zebra mussels from boats and trailers.

» Drain water from your boat, livewell, bilge and impellor by removing drain plugs and opening water-draining devices. Also drain portable bait containers.

Gut wrencher: Researchers seek magic bullet to control mussels


Scientists have identified a new weapon to ward off two troublesome Great Lakes invaders: A bacterium strain that destroys their guts.

It may prove to be an environmentally friendly and effective method of controlling quagga and zebra mussels. Introduced to the lakes in the 1980s, the mussels eat up things like phytoplankton – food that native fish and other life depend upon.

They also clog things like the water intake pipes of power plants. Nowadays they are removed by hand or with the treatment of chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.

A strain of the bacterium, P. flourescens, destroys the bivalves’ digestive systems.

Daniel Molloy, a researcher at the New York State Museum, once helped develop an environmental safe method, using a bacterium, to kill black flies and mosquitoes. He had a hunch that a strain might be found to kill invasive mussels, says Molloy’s colleague Denise Mayer.

And they found it hiding in plain sight.

“[The bacterium] is ubiquitous, you know, common found all over the world. It’s everywhere, it’s on your fingers,” said Mayer, a lead research scientist at the museum which hosts scientists in a variety of areas.

Their research was backed, among others, by the Empire State Electric Energy Research Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

“Our intent was really to provide a tool to the … power industry and such, to clean their pipes…to reduce the use of some of the chlorinated compounds,” Mayer said.

The method isn’t designed for open water use so it doesn’t solve the problem of the mussels’ impact on the ecosystem.

Chemicals like chlorine can harm more than just the mussels, Mayer says.

And power industries are interested in getting rid of current methods, she says.

“Some of the biggest supporters, the Department of Energy, you know, power, they want a different method to use,” Mayer said. “So it’s not like they’re out there saying, we don’t care we’ll apply this to the environment. They really … would like to have an alternative.”

Typically the bacterium is associated with plant roots and helps the plant ward off fungi and disease.

But it also contains a chemical that is exclusively harmful to the two mussels and destroys their digestive systems. Other critters tested, like fish and other mussels, are unaffected by it.

The bacterium is a dish best served dead. Live cells could make fish sick, Mayer said.

“The cells are actually dead, so it’s acting like a pill .… it’s giving the mussels something to grab onto.” Mayer said.

The researchers screened more than 700 bacterial strains in search of the one that would do the trick.

“What they were able to do was pretty amazing. It’s more than just a needle in haystack,” said Sarahann Rackl, an Invasive Mussel Project Manager at Marrone Bio Innovations.

The museum then looked for a partner to commercialize the bacterium into a product.

And Marrone Bio Innovations answered the call. The California company focuses on environmentally friendly solutions to pest management. The company and the museum shared a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to aid in the bacterium’s development and commercialization. This year the company received another $600,000 from the foundation.

It is expected to be available in March under the name Zequanox.

“We feel that this is another product in the toolbox for people to use,” Rackl said.

“There’s a lot of value and potential value in this product because it’s environmentally selective and benign.”

And the product won’t expose people to harmful chemicals, she says.

And time is money. Chlorine treatments, if done properly can take 7 to 10 days or longer, she says. Zequanox takes six hours.

DTE Energy spends between $100,000 and $500,000 a year controlling mussels in its six Michigan power plants, said Gary Longton, a DTE senior environmental engineering technician. The mussels clog pipes that draw in water to cool equipment.

Right now DTE employs divers to clean pumphouses with the same industrial commercial-grade scrubbers designed to scrape barnacles off of boat hulls. Or the company treats them with chlorine or sodium hypochlorite.

“Detroit Edison knows their business and they have chosen primarily mechanical because it’s the cheapest form, they’re no dumbbells,” said Don Schloesser a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center.

Longton says that the company is always open to new and effective methods to rid itself of the nuisances. He says that salesmen test strips different coatings in the pump houses. Once it was cayenne pepper.

“We’re always open for the magic bullet,” he said.

“If anyone came up with the magic bullet they could be a very rich and famous person,” he said, “and no one has come up with a magic bullet yet.”

Green Lake group in Spicer, Minn., looks to be at forefront in stopping zebra mussels

Taking on zebra mussels … Some reason for optimism

By: Tom Cherveny, West Central Tribune

SPICER — Like bracing for an uninvited guest to ring the doorbell, zebra mussels seem closer by the day.

They’ve established themselves in the Lake Le Homme Dieu chain of lakes in Douglas County, less than an hour’s drive away.

They’re proliferating rapidly in Lake Minnetonka, which has now been dubbed a “super spreader’’ due to the threat that the many boaters using the lake could spread the invasive aquatic species.

Yet, for the first time, there’s also a sense of optimism and there’s a greater resolve then ever, according to Terry Frazee with the Green Lakes Property Owners Association.

The Green Lake association is partnering with Minnesota Waters, which represents lakes associations across the state, and the lakes associations in Douglas County and Lake Minnetonka to research a promising tool in the battle to stop the mussels.

It’s a commercial product known as Zeaquanox. It offers the promise of helping control the invasive species.

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel we have not had,’’ said Frazee.

Developed 20 years ago by Dr. Daniel Molloy, a scientist with the New York State Museum, Zeaquanox is a strain of bacteria called Pseudomonas fluorescens. The bacteria are found naturally just about everywhere, from the ground we walk on to the milk we drink.

The bacteria are selectively toxic to zebra and quagga mussels when ingested by the invasive species.

In the case of Zeaquanox, the bacteria are killed. The dead bacteria cells retain the toxin that kills the zebra mussels. It causes the cells in the mussels’ digestive systems to hemorrhage.

The product is not harmful to native mussels, waterfowl or fish, and poses no risk to people, according to Frazee and Lois Sinn Lindquist, executive director of Minnesota Waters.

The three partners intend to be at the forefront in researching whether the product can effectively be used to control zebra mussels in Minnesota lakes.

Zeaquanox is already being used by power companies in place of chlorine to keep water intake pipes clear of the invasive species. Its toxicity to zebra mussels is 100 percent when present in high concentrations in the intake pipes and other closed systems.

But can it be effectively used in lakes, where it will be diluted and where it will be far more difficult to apply the product where it is most needed? And, can the product be made available at a reasonable cost for large-scale use?

These are among the questions the partners hope to be among the first to answer.

Having a possible tool to control zebra mussels is not the only reason for the optimism that’s starting to show itself, according to the partners.

Frazee and Lindquist noted that recent state legislation requiring boaters to drain their watercraft and new funding for research to control invasive aquatic species are all positive signs.

Lindquist said she was also encouraged by a recent visit with Tom Landwehr, new director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He made clear the department’s commitment to stopping the invasive species, she said.

Containment and keeping the zebra mussels out of local waters remains the number one priority, said Frazee. “Don’t move a mussel’’ and other campaigns aimed at heightening public awareness are the first line of defense.

Or as Lindquist said it: “Spread the message, not the mussel.’’

State Turns To Local Volunteers To Help Protect Lakes From Invasive Species

Program Helps Fill Void In Staffing At DEEP

The Hartford Courant

The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has launched a new initiative that relies on local volunteers to help combat the spread of invasive plants and animal species in Connecticut’s lakes.

The Invasive Investigators program trains volunteers to examine boats arriving at lakes for signs of invasive species. The volunteers also educate boaters in their communities about how to properly clean their vessels so they don’t spread invasive species to other lakes.

The volunteers help fill a large void in DEEP staffing. The department employs about 20 seasonal boating assistants who are spread among 120 state boat launches. But hundreds of town-owned and private boat launches are outside the department’s jurisdiction.

In helping prevent the spread of invasive species, the volunteers perform many of the same duties that paid staff members do but potentially have a much wider reach. They are free to offer their services at town-owned and private launches.

The DEEP is hoping the effort will mitigate the damage that invasive species cause to Connecticut’s lakes. Although the program is meant to curb the spread of all invasive species, this year the DEEP placed special emphasis on the dangers posed by the zebra mussel, a tiny mollusk already found in four Connecticut lakes.

Zebra mussels cling to boat bottoms, the pipes of water treatment plants, hydroelectric assemblies and marina pilings. They destroy marine life by removing sources of food used by some fish and other organisms.

The zebra mussel, native to Eastern Europe, was first found in Connecticut in 1998 in Salisbury’s Twin Lakes, according to Gwendolyn Flynn of the DEEP.

By November 2010, two lakes in western Connecticut, Lake Lillinonah and Lake Zoar, had become infested with the mollusks — just one of 19 invasive marine plants and animal species found in Connecticut.

Members of the Candlewood Lake community are trying to stop zebra mussels from spreading to their lake from nearby Zoar and Lillinonah. Candlewood already has other invasive species, including Eurasian milfoil, a prickly aquatic plant that repels swimmers.

“We don’t have zebra mussels yet, but they’re knocking at our door,” said Larry Marsicano, president of the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority.

Zebra mussels can attach themselves to most living and non-living surfaces, including boats. Unwitting boaters traveling from lake to lake risk carrying the stowaways to new waters if they don’t properly clean their boats.

Since April, the Invasive Investigators program has trained more than 70 volunteers during five sessions held in sites throughout the state.

The volunteers, generally boaters themselves, learn how to identify common invasive plants and animals and how to teach the proper boat-cleaning procedure — “clean, drain and dry” — to those who use their lakes.

The volunteers work shifts at boat launches in their communities to inspect arriving boats for invasive species, with the boat owners’ permission.

Although volunteers can inspect boats, they cannot prevent them — even those harboring invasive species — from entering the water. They can, however, report such boaters to the DEEP, which will then refer the matter to the department’s area environmental conservation officers for possible investigation, Flynn said.

In Connecticut, boaters are legally obligated to clean all plant matter — invasive or otherwise — off their boats after they leave any body of water. Boaters found trying to enter a lake with any plant matter on their boats risk a $95 state fine. State law doesn’t similarly bar zebra mussels or other animal species, but such regulations are being considered, Flynn said.

Flynn said the department’s hope is that any lake visitor made aware that his boat is carrying an invasive species will take the time to voluntarily remove it — even if that means rescheduling boating plans.

In late May, for example, a volunteer at Candlewood Lake found zebra mussels on a boat that, according to its owner, had been purchased near the Hudson River. The boat’s owner left the lake, cleaned the boat and passed a follow-up inspection when he returned, Flynn said.

The volunteers are highly motivated because they work in their area communities. They have an intimate knowledge of their own lakes and the desire to protect them.

Phyllis Schaer of Sherman, chairwoman of the Candlewood Lake Authority’s invasive species subcommittee, wakes up early on Saturdays to begin her rounds at Candlewood Lake. She typically offers to inspect the boats of about 11 newcomers a day, she said. She also takes the time to teach members of the lake community how to take care of their boats to prevent spreading invasive species.

Schaer said that many boaters do not take the problem seriously because they feel no impact from a single pest they fail to clean from their boat. But over the long term, if the invasive species settles in their local lake, it is expensive for the community to contain it.

“It’s insidious because people think that if these things don’t bite you, they’re not dangerous. But they bite you in your economic pocketbook,” Schaer said.

For more information about invasive species in Connecticut and how to prevent spreading them, visit

Zebra Mussels continue to invade Lake Texoma

Reporter: Jennifer Sanders
Email Address:

Lake Texoma — Lake Texoma has been infested with zebra mussels for more than 2 years and now its not only affecting residents in Texoma, but across the North Texas region.

Lake Texoma — Lake Texoma has been infested with zebra mussels for more than 2 years and now its not only affecting residents in Texoma, but across the North Texas region.

You have to be close to see them, but these invasive creatures called zebra mussels are wreaking havoc on the North Texas water supply.

Biologist say while the species aren’t harmful to humans and doesn’t contaminate the water — they clog pipes and damage water supply equipment.

“This is a typical mussel oyster type animal, it filters water and takes little particulate matter out of the water,”said biologist Bruce Hysmith.

They invaded Lake Texoma more than two years ago.

Less than a week ago, Hysmith found 17 live zebra mussels, which are causing major problems for more than 60 cities in the North Texas region.

And now — reps with the North Texas Municipal Water District have implemented a water emergency plan.

The district has lost raw water supply from Lake Texoma — which accounts for more than a quarter of their water supply.

So now residents in dozens of cities around North Texas — have strict water restrictions until biologists contain the zebra mussels in the water.

“We’re doing what we had hoped to do and that is to stop the southward migration of zebra mussels in Lake Texoma,”said Hysmith.

Their doing that by not pumping water from the lake.

And getting rid of the zebra mussels isn’t an easy fix –but the biggest help to stop the spread of the species can come from boaters.

“Clean, drain and dry the boat if you’re going to Texoma from another water body, but if your going home to another water body but if you’re just going home and back to Lake Texoma not a problem,”said Hysmith.

Zebra Mussels Target Of New DNR Action

Hot Water Decontamination Unit Utilized To Wipe Out Invasive Species

MADISON, Wis. — While many Wisconsinites have spent recent weekends enjoying area lakes, the state Department of Natural Resources was also busy on the water.
DNR officials were utilizing a new piece of equipment being implemented to stop the spread of zebra mussels. Just a simple, but thorough wash could be the key to keeping the invasive zebra mussel from spreading further into Wisconsin waters, they said.

“The larger challenge here is to keep them out of other lakes,” said DNR deputy warden Greg Stacey.

And what makes the zebra mussel so nasty?

“What they do is they eat the plankton, the same food that a new batch of walleye would want to eat. They clean the lake up so the predator fish can see the small fish and actually destroy the new hatch,” said Stacey.

Local angler Domenick Donato has caught fish all over the country. He said the zebra mussels impact on the underwater ecosystem is significant.

“Just to see the change in how we fished in the past when I was a kid, to now it’s completely different,” said Donato. “I mean, definitely, they’re going deep, and they’re staying deep.”

“My common sense would think if you don’t have a really deep lake that can handle where the fish can migrate to get protection, then it can make a huge impact,” continued Donato about the spread of zebra mussels.

In Wisconsin, zebra mussels aren’t currently a major source of trouble. The DNR said less than 2 percent of Wisconsin’s lakes are now affected.

The problem is those zebra mussels can grow exponentially.

And that’s why the DNR is breaking in a new piece of equipment, a hot water decontamination unit.

“It’s a hot water, we don’t use any chemicals,” said Stacey. “And I think that’s going to be an important factor for many, many people throughout the state.”

DNR officials said the training will eventually trickle into local communities.

“And the really good thing is we can provide a service to the counties, to the municipalities, and to the lake associations,” said Stacey. “As they purchase these machines, we’ll help train those people.”

All to keep those zebra mussels at bay.

The hot water decontamination unit is the first mobile decontamination unit in Wisconsin.

According to the DNR, zebra mussels don’t just hurt the natural ecosystem of a lake. The species can also affect property values of lakeshore homes and interfere with the tourism industry.

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