Zebra mussels pose danger to swimmers
By Joe Parmon
Published July 1, 2005
RICHFIELD - Zebra mussels may be tiny little aquatic
creatures, but they've had a big impact on many who have
tried to enjoy the day at scenic Baker's Beach on Canadarago
Lake in the town of Richfield this swimming season.
With the lake suddenly infested this year with the shellfish-like
mussels, which have razor sharp shells and cling in clusters
to lake bottom rocks, several swimmers have suffered injuries
this season after stepping on the mussels while in the
water, according to Richfield Town Supervisor Nicholas
Palevsky. One small boy received cuts so severe he was
taken to a local emergency room for treatment, said Palevsky.
In response to the situation, the Richfield town board
voted Wednesday at an emergency meeting to require all
bathers to have foot protection prior to entering the
water at the beach. Park visitors without foot protection
will not be allowed in the designated 150-foot swim area.
"There's been a flurry of injuries. The town board
felt we had to do something," said Palevsky. "As
the lake bottom at the swimming area is covered with rocks,
(zebra mussels) have formed in such concentrations as
to endanger swimmers who are not wearing foot protection.
We're hoping the shoes will completely solve the problem."
Beach staff will be responsible for enforcement of the
new policy, and there will be no exceptions. Signs notifying
the public of the policy are in place, and all park visitors
will be given written notice of the new rule upon entry.
Baker's Beach is open daily through Labor Day for picnics
and swimming from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
"The town regrets any inconvenience, and takes this
action only out of a concern for the safety of its guests,"
remarked Palevsky. "The board will monitor the situation
closely and take further action if necessary."
Zebra mussels (dreissena polymorpha) are a new invading
species in North America with such an enormous feeding
and reproductive capacity that they are spreading in epidemic
The zebra mussel was first collected in North America
in June of 1988. Since then, they have spread through
all of the Great Lakes and entered eight river systems,
including the Susquehanna.
They were first collected on Canadarago Lake in 2000,
although Palevsky said they haven't presented a major
problem at Baker's Beach until this year.
"It's pretty much been all of a sudden this year.
This is the fifth year I've run the beach and we've had
no problems up until now," commented Palevsky.
Between 30 and 40 of the grayish-black mussels, which
measure no more than 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch across, can
attach themselves to a small rock, often piling up on
top of each other, said Palevsky.
There is currently no known way to eliminate the mussels
from North American waters without harming other aquatic