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New tool fights zebra mussels

Albany, N.Y. -- Zebra mussels cause everything from cuts on feet to boat damage.

Theyve been a problem for rivers, streams and lakes in New York state since the early '90s.

I stepped in the wrong place at the wrong time, said Webster Pearsal, fisheries manager with the Department of Environmental Conservation. I wasnt wearing sneakers and got a slice (in my foot) about an inch long.

The zebra mussels are in invasive species environmental officials have been trying to deal with for years, and thats where Dr. Daniel Molloy enters the picture.

They asked me, Did you ever think to control this invasive species?, said Molloy, now a Professor at the University at Albany. This was in 1991.

Molloys goal was to find a non-chemical solution to deal with the zebra mussel problem. He had done something similar to blunt the impact of black flies in the Adirondacks in the '80s.

It took almost 20 years, but Molloy finally found a potential solution in the form of bacteria that can be found in soil. The bacterium, according to Molloy, protects plant roots from fungus, but it is detrimental to zebra mussels.

Although Molloy does not have any role in the company, Marrone Bio Innovations now sells his discovery as a product called Zequanox.

Businesses and organizations currently use the product to effectively deal with zebra mussels on pipes, boats and other areas, but its not yet permitted for use in lakes or streams.

Molloy said the EPA is currently looking into doing more testing before allowing Zequanox and other products like it near rivers and streams.

I wouldnt be surprised to see to OK'd this year, he said. I dont see any reason why it wouldnt be allowed.

Molloy added that while its impossible to eliminate all the invasive zebra mussels, he believes it will definitely be a tool beaches and lake associations will put to use.

 
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