U.S. Water News Online
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Shells from zebra mussels -- a
destructive freshwater invader from Europe -- have been found at a
water intake pipe at a Kansas City area power plant on the Missouri
River. No live specimens were found, but this is the first time
evidence of zebra mussels in the river has been found at Kansas City.
Biologists did not know whether they rode into the area on barges or
washed downstream from an established colony.
Regardless, the find heightens concerns about zebra mussels
becoming an expensive pest in the river and then moving into other
Missouri and Kansas lakes and streams to cause ecological harm.
For the Memorial Day weekend, warnings are being posted at boat
launching ramps in both states. The warnings urge boaters to take
steps to keep the mussels from hitching a ride to new waters on
"This is a wakeup call that we're going to have to take this
seriously and begin to deal with it," said Steve Adams, natural
resources coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and
About 30 half-shells of zebra mussels were found in routine
maintenance on a water intake screen at the Quindaro Power Station,
said Susan Allen, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City, Kan., Board of
Public Utilities. They were confirmed as zebra mussel shells by
biologists for the BPU and the Kansas Department of Health and
"It's on my mind: Are they establishing themselves and are we in
for trouble down the road on the Missouri River?" said Sue
Bruenderman, a fishery biologist for the Missouri Department of
Zebra mussels caused millions of dollars in damage in the Great
Lakes region after arriving there by way of ship ballast in 1988.
They have few natural predators to control their numbers and can form
dense colonies that clog pipes, damage boats, and harm native
The thumbnail-sized mussels have spread rapidly down the
Mississippi River and into eastern rivers in the past decade.
One female zebra mussel can produce a million eggs. The species
microscopic young, called veligers, can ride currents, barges, boats,
and any residual water in boats and motors to new territory.
Barges that have been in the Mississippi River are probably
carrying the mussels attached to their hulls into the Missouri River
system, Bruenderman said.
A live zebra mussel was found in 1999 at a power plant water
intake in Iowa, upstream on the Missouri River from Kansas City. Last
year a marina employee at Lake of the Ozarks narrowly averted the
launch of a boat that had live zebra mussels encrusted on its hull.
The boat had been moored in the Mississippi.
The shells found at Quindaro will prompt both utilities and
wildlife officials to watch this summer for colonies on the river.
Meanwhile, boaters, especially those traveling to states with
known contamination, are asked to help halt the mussel spread.
Besides the Mississippi River, zebra mussels are found in rivers in
Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Boaters should drain all live wells, empty bait buckets and clean
any damp mosses or grasses off trailers. They should pump water out
of engine cooling systems. Boaters also should allow boats and
trailers to thoroughly dry for a week before re-launching, or else
wash them at a car wash. Any live zebra mussels should be placed in
trash bags and thrown away.
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