GRANTS PASS – In response to efforts of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels into state waterways and lakes, the City of Grants Pass has initiated a “Don’t Move A Mussel” public awareness campaign to educate the public about the detrimental conditions these invasive species can cause to waterways and municipal water and wastewater systems.
“Currently, there are not any approved chemical or nonmechanical methods for preventing or removing these mussels from our intake system,” said Grants Pass Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Adam Smith.
Recently, ODFW was alerted to the discovery of invasive zebra mussels attached to and inside Betta Buddy Marimo Ball moss plants sold at pet store chains for home aquariums. Pet store chains including PetCo and PetSmart have removed the Betta Buddy Marimo Balls from their shelves.
ODFW district staff are contacting other local businesses carrying pets and pet products to determine if they sold or are selling these products.
“We want to thank all pet and aquarium supply stores who have stepped up and quickly taken this product off their shelves,” said Rick Boatner, ODFW Invasive Species Program supervisor and current chairman of the Oregon Invasive Species Council, a statewide effort among many natural resource agencies to keep invasive species out of Oregon.
Aquarium owners who may have purchased and used these contaminated moss balls are encouraged to use the three-step method of destroy, dispose, and drain to clean their aquariums immediately.
ODFW has released a how-to video on safely cleaning aquariums and disposing of the moss balls: https://youtu.be/DeLXmPDW23s.
The California-based distributor of the moss balls has been identified, but the distributor is just one of many that receive the same product from the same source, so the Oregon Invasive Species Council advises that all moss balls imported from Ukraine from any distributor should be considered potentially contaminated.
Additional information about how to properly dispose of potentially contaminated aquarium contents is available here: https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/ANS/zebra-mussel-disposal.html.
The early life stage of the mussels is called the veliger stage. It is during this microscopic final larval stage that the mussels can be spread without notice.
“Our pre-chlorine dose and contact time at the water treatment plant is more than enough to kill zebra mussel veliger,” said Smith.
The greatest risk to the city water system is contamination of the Rogue River, where Grants Pass intakes its drinking water.
“Everything before our pre-chlorine injection point is at risk, including our intake screen, screen wash system, desilting system, intake pumps, and the intake sump system,” said Smith.
“Currently, if the mussels got established in the Rogue River, our only option would be to remove them mechanically by scraping on a regular basis,” he said.
Those processes can be expensive and cause undue wear and tear on the city’s water distribution system.
The mussels would also threaten the river’s entire ecosystem as they multiply and takeover the food source used by newly hatched fish, while also contributing to larger algae blooms in the water.
Currently, Oregon and Pacific Northwest waterways are free of zebra and quagga mussels thanks to a monitoring program that requires watercraft to be inspected when entering Oregon, and the swift action of the Oregon Invasive Species Council to alert pet stores and consumers to the contaminated moss balls.
For additional information about the Waterway Access and Aquatic Invasive Species Program, visit: https://myodfw.com/articles/waterway-access-and-aquatic-invasive-species-permits.
The City of Grants Pass highly encourages residents to get informed about these special programs and cautions everyone: “Don’t Move A Mussel.”