Release Date: October 2, 2008
Environmentally Safe Control of Invasive Mussels Made Possible by DOE-Funded Project
|WASHINGTON, D. C. —
In a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), researchers have developed an environmentally safe bacterial toxin to control zebra and quagga mussels, two non-native, invasive species that have found their way into the waterways of 25 states over the past two decades, fouling the aquatic environment as they spread.
In experimental treatments of zebra and quagga mussels, the bio-pesticide achieved a 98 percent mortality rate in service water systems at a New York power plant. The addition of the bacterium to the water supply showed no effects on humans.
Since their introduction to U.S. rivers and lakes in the mid-1980s, the dime-sized zebra mussel, and the slightly larger quagga mussel, have cost the North American economy billions of dollars in lost industrial productivity and the expense of control efforts. The two species, which are native to Eastern Europe, have few natural predators in America, and they compete with indigenous mussels, disrupting the native aquatic food chain.
When the invaders grow in high density, they can block pipes that deliver water to power-plant cooling systems, shutting down electricity generation while the organisms are removed. Large colonies can also threaten water supplies for drinking, fire-fighting, and irrigation.
Existing methods used by power-plant operators to control zebra and quagga mussels include chemical "molluscicides," chlorination, filtration, and pre-oxidation of intake water. Use of the new bacterial toxin is economically competitive with these other methods while having minimal effect on native species. It is expected that application of the bacterial toxin will allow power plant operators to reduce or eliminate the use of chlorination that can harm aquatic ecosystems.
The now-completed project was funded by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Production of commercial quantities of the toxin is now being carried out at Marrone Organic Innovations (MOI), a private laboratory in California. MOI and NYSM will use a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue the work started with NETL and improve the bio-pesticide for even higher mussel kill.