15 Sep 2014
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Tiny Zebra Mussels in Lake Zoar

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection analyst Gwendolyn Flynn educates residents and boaters about the zebra mussel

Tiny Zebra Mussels in Lake Zoar

Beware of zebra mussels. This type of shellfish — not the kind you want to put on your spaghetti — is no bigger then a dime but is capable of sucking up all of the calcium from the nearby water. The bad news is, they particularly like Connecticut’s lakes and streams.

Though the crowd was thin, with only about four people, mostly boaters in attendance Saturday morning, analyst Gwendolyn Flynn of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection educated the community on the topic of zebra mussels with the help of the Lake Zoar Authority.

The seminar also served as the volunteer Invasive Investigator Program training program. The lecture, held at the C.H. Booth Library, covered the background and gave examples of what to do to keep invasive plants from spreading, and provided resources for volunteers.

The Invasive Investigator Program was established to assist the DEEP in educating boaters on the proper care and maintenance of their vessel and the eco-systems.  The DEEP attends 120 state boat launches annually but because there are several other launches, they look to volunteers to help with the initiative.

Potential volunteers focus on educating boaters and lakefront property owners oh how to prevent the spread of nuisance species across the different lakes in Connecticut. This seminar specifically focused on one aquatic hitchhiker known as the zebra mussel with some emphasis given to other nuisances. Those in attendance were also given pamphlets and a handbook with more information about which plants to look out for.

Zebra mussels were the current and most pressing concern because while fines exist for the transport of nuisance species by way of unclean boats, there is no current legislation that covers the transport of zebra mussels.

A zebra mussel, in its adult stage is characterized by black and white “zebra striping” on their shells. In their infancy they are too small to be seen with the naked eye.

“They are free-floaters,” says Flynn. “They go wherever the water takes them. When it is time for them to grow up, it finds a hard substrate, attaches and grows.”

What is particularly disturbing about these creatures is that there is no way to get rid of them once there is an infestation. Current known infestations in Connecticut include lakes Zoar and Lillinonah, and the Twin Lakes in Salisbury but there is potential for many other lakes because the right conditions exist.

“There is potential for zebra mussel infestation in Candlewood Lake and Housatonic Lake,” Flynn said.

Boaters can prevent a zebra mussel infestation by using the DEEP's “Clean, Drain, Dry” program.

Clean, means to clean, inspect, and remove all aquatic plant and animal life from the vessel. Draining refers to letting out the water the boat might be retaining in the ballast or the live wells of the motor. Dry refers to a wait time between periods. After cleaning and draining your boat the DEEP recommends letting the boat dry thoroughly for seven days in hot, dry weather or four weeks in cool, wet weather.

If waiting is not possible they also suggest several alternatives to waiting including washing your boat with hot, high pressure water or using a one percent salt solution to kill any zebra mussel eggs that may have drifted onto the vessel in question.

Generally the DEEP wants motorists to take away this simple message: Inspect everything.

“Including your dog,” says Flynn. “Many people don’t think about their dog when inspecting for nuisance species but if the dog has gone swimming he could transport zebra mussels into another lake if they’re hiding in his fur. So if you plan on going boating again make sure to give your dog a bath.”

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