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Great Lakes Article:

Zebra mussels pose danger to swimmers
By Joe Parmon
Herkimer Telegram
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 fashion.

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 life forms.

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