Beware the Invasive Bivalves

Pesky zebra mussels have been confirmed at Lake Texoma, and experts want to make sure water supplies are protected.

"Zebra mussels have the potential to be an even greater threat to Texas freshwater resources than invasive aquatic plans, such as giant salvinia, and toxic organisms, such as golden alga," said Phil Durocher, director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Inland Fisheries Division.

The department and the North Texas Municipal Water District are monitoring the spread of zebra mussels. Zebra mussels, with razor-sharp edges, can clog water pipes, eat the food supply of fish, attach to boats and be an unwelcome carpet at beaches.

In a news release this week, the wildlife department confirmed the invasive bivalves have spread from Lake Texoma, which is shared by Texas and Oklahoma, into the headwaters of Lake Lavon.

"Experts fear they could eventually spread throughout the Red River and Trinity River watersheds," the agency said.

State biologists have placed testing devices in Lake Lavon to check for the mussels, known for their striped, yellow-brown shells. Personnel on Monday plan to take water samples to check for microscopic larvae.

The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that Texas Municipal Water District has stopped pumping water from Lake Texoma into Lake Lavon, the largest drinking water source in North Texas. It supplies water to 1.5 million people in dozens of communities, including Plano, McKinney, Frisco, Richardson, Garland and Mesquite.

The district will study ways to remove zebra mussels if they attach to pipes leading into its treatment plant, said spokeswoman Denise Hickey. Any larvae sucked into the plants would be killed by the treatment process and won't contaminate the water supply, she said.

"We will be taking to our board of directors a recommendation for an engineering consulting contract," Hickey said. "They will work with us if any (zebra mussels) are found and what strategies we need to do."

The Texas wildlife department has a hot line to report suspected sightings, 1-800-792-4263.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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