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Lab To Test For Destructive Zebra Mussels

US Army Corp biologists gather Lake Lavon Samples to test for zebra mussels.
US Army Corp biologists gather Lake Lavon Samples to test for zebra mussels.

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Dallas, TX –

A U.S. Bureau of Land Management lab in Denver will test water samples collected Tuesday at Lake Lavon about 15 miles east of McKinney. Biologists want to know if invasive zebra mussels have spread to the lake and beyond. KERA's Shelley Kofler says the economic consequences could be devastating for the entire Trinity basin.

On the northeastern side of Lake Lavon biologists from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers launched their boats.

They were equipped with fine mesh nets and containers for extracting water samples that may contain zebra mussel larvae.

"It is the most damaging macro-fouling animal in North America," said Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Bruce Hysmith.

Hysmith says an adult zebra mussel was first documented in Texas waters in April at Lake Texoma. The North Texas Municipal Water District has shut down pumps that transfer water from Texoma to Lavon, but Hysmith fears the fast-growing, thumb-nail sized mussels may already have spread. If they reach the Trinity River the mussels could reap economic havoc as they expand their reach throughout the basin which stretches south from North Texas to the Gulf. The mussels can attach to pipes and block water treatment plant intake systems.

They can also destroy fish populations.

"They filter out the plankton,"said Hysmith. "The plankton is the basis for the food chain for fish. They take the food that feeds the fish."

Zebra mussels originated in Eastern Europe and were first introduced to North American by ships traveling to the Great Lakes region. Hysmith says that once they're established the mussels are almost impossible to eradicate. Biologists say they'll know in two to four weeks whether the Lake Lavon water samples test positive for zebra mussels.

Email Shelley Kofler