Zebra mussels spotted in two lakes

Photo courtesy of the Connecticut DEP

Zebra mussels attached to a bottle. The state DEP commissioner calls the finding of zebra mussels in two Connecticut lakes “a disturbing discovery.” The invasive species has the potential to displace native mussels, clog power plant and industrial water intakes, and affect public drinking water distribution systems.

DEP urges boaters, fishermen to take precautions to prevent spread of invasive species

Zebra mussels, an invasive species, have been discovered in Lake Zoar and Lake Lillinonah, which are created by dams along the Housatonic River in western Connecticut, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday.

This is the first report of a new infestation since zebra mussels were first discovered in Connecticut in 1998 in East and West Twin Lakes in Salisbury. Only small numbers of zebra mussels have been discovered thus far, the DEP said, and it is uncertain whether they migrated from upstream sources or arrived separately.

“This is a disturbing discovery,” said DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella. “The zebra mussels have the potential to do much damage by displacing native mussels, clogging power plant and industrial water intakes, affecting public drinking water distribution systems and disrupting aquatic ecosystems.”

She asked boaters and fishermen to redouble their efforts to take precautions against spreading zebra mussels and to contact the DEP if they see them.

The zebra mussel is a black-and-white-striped bivalve mollusk that was introduced into North American waters through the discharge of ship ballast water. Since its discovery in Lake St. Clair in Michigan and Ontario in 1988, it has spread throughout the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River system and most of New York State. Zebra mussels were first found in the Housatonic River in 2009 when they were discovered in Laurel Lake in Lee, Mass., and subsequent sampling found them in the lake’s outflow into the main body of the river.

Zebra mussels have fairly specific water chemistry requirements and are limited to waters with moderate to high calcium concentrations and pH. In Connecticut, suitable habitat for zebra mussels is mostly limited to a number of water bodies in the western part of the state.

The mussel can foul boat hulls and engine cooling water systems and clog power plant, industrial and public drinking water intakes. Six hydroelectric facilities along the Housatonic could be affected, the DEP said.

To prevent transferring invasive species, the DEP said boaters should make sure they drain all water from the boat, including bilge water, compartments where fish are stored and engine cooling systems after use, inspect their boat, trailer and equipment and remove and discard any aquatic plants and animals found. At home, boats, trailers and equipment should be rinsed with tap water and fish storage compartments cleaned with bleach solution. Unused bait should be disposed of in the trash, and fish and plants should not be transported between water bodies but released into the waters they came from.

To report sightings of zebra mussels or other aquatic nuisance species, contact the DEP’s Inland Fisheries Division at (860) 424-3474. For information on zebra mussels, visit:
www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/fishing/anglers_guide/anguide.pdf and www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/boating/boating_guide/boaterguide.pdf.
– Judy Benson