Execution chemical used to combat invasive mussels

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on September 20, 2010 at 7:36 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 20 at 10:33 PM

Poll:
Should the state use potassium chloride in an attempt to eradicate zebra mussels?

LAVON LAKE — The same chemical used in executions is about to be used in Lavon Lake to prevent a problem the size of your finger nail: Zebra mussels.

Lavon Lake is not infested with the mussels, and the people who enjoy the lake and state authorities want to keep it that way.

With summer-like weather stretching deep into September, the days have been perfect for boating. At Lavon Water Sports at Collin Park Marina, they hope the water stays perfect and clear of the zebra mussel.

"The boaters that are here, they have some big investments here in the marinas," said Greg Allen of Lavon Water Sports. "We'd like to see that those investments, that the wildlife is protected here and that the water stays clear."

The pesky zebra mussels invaded Lake Texoma to the north in 2009. They breed quickly; clinging to boats and docks and even to pipes, blocking inlets to municipal water systems.

Zebra mussels have been found in a creek linking Lake Texoma and Lavon Lake. On Tuesday, Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel will start treating that creek upstream from Lavon Lake with potassium chloride that's in a salt-like powder.

"We've got a small window of opportunity here hopefully that we can get in; get them when there's a small population of them, they're fairly isolated; and hopefully we can be effective," said Brian Van Zee of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The State of Texas already knows how lethal potassium chloride can be in very high concentrations. It is one of the chemicals that the prison system uses in executions.

But Parks and Wildlife says the level of the chemical it will use will not be enough to harm humans, fish or plants — just zebra mussels, which will be asphyxiated.

"It's a very safe level; it's below EPA drinking water standard levels and everything else, "Van Zee said. "It's an effective treatment for zebra mussels, and it's very safe for the rest of the environment and for other animals."

The treatment was used in West Virginia at a rock quarry, and zebra mussels haven't been seen there since.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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