Zebra mussel madness in Alexandria area

Dr. Daniel Molloy described three major impacts caused by the spread of zebra mussels.

By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press

Dr. Daniel Molloy described three major impacts caused by the spread of zebra mussels.

One is recreational. Beach-goers could cut their feet on the sharp mussel shells.

Live mussels also wash onto shore, leaving behind an offensive odor.

The industrial impact of zebra mussels is also significant.

The creatures attach to and clog pipes, causing a myriad of problems and financial burden.

According to Dick Osgood, certified lake manager, irrigation systems for lawn watering are also becoming inundated with mussels.

The third impact of the mussels is ecological.

“[Zebra mussels] feed voraciously by filtering on algae and the next domino to get hit is the microscopic animals that are in that water,” he said. “The dominoes start to fall.”

He explained that insects and fish normally would eat the microorganisms.

“The food chain gets an impact and also the water starts to become clearer because they’re eating those microscopic plants that are making it kind of pea-soupy. Sunlight now can go further down, striking the bottom so that aquatic weeds can start to grow where they weren’t growing,” he said.

The zebra mussels also accumulate polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) “which are nasty poisons – you already have that in these lakes,” Osgood said. He also noted, “With zebra mussels… they filter out the algae but they don’t filter out the toxin strains of algae.”

Some of these toxins have been linked to human health impacts, especially in water supply reservoirs.

“They are beginning to find Alzheimer clusters in communities that get their drinking water from reservoirs that have blue-green algae blooms that have formed toxins,” Osgood said.