Researchers yesterday said low-frequency radio waves might
someday be used instead of chemicals to control zebra mussels,
which have become a major nuisance in the Great Lakes and
waterways across Northeast Ohio.
Zebra mussels in an aquarium that were exposed
to very low-frequency electromagnetic waves -- around 60
hertz, or similar to what is emitted by a power outlet --
died within 40 days, according to a study conducted by undergraduate
students at Purdue University-Calumet in Hammond, Ind.,
and presented yesterday at an American Chemical Society
meeting in Chicago.
field trials still must be conducted, the technology appears
promising, said Matthew F. Ryan, associate professor of
chemistry at Purdue.
technique appears to be safe for fish and other aquatic
life, Ryan said.
such as chlorine and bromine have been used to kill the
mussels, but there are concerns about the safety of the
substances, Ryan said.
to the United States in the ballast water of oceangoing
ships in the 1980s, zebra mussels spread rapidly through
the Great Lakes and other inland waterways and have caused
millions of dollars in damage to power plants and boats.
tiny mollusks also clog water intake pipes at power plants
and other installations including fire hydrant lines.
Wege, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in Minnesota, welcomed the study, saying that most efforts
to control zebra mussels have failed.
you could zap the critters right from the water, that
would be great,'' Wege said.
the technique proves effective, Wege said, electrical
barriers could block the mussels from infesting other
waters. The result could help restore balance to the Great
Lakes' food chain.
said irradiation appeared to cause zebra mussels to lose
large amounts of calcium -- essential for shell health
and muscle control -- as well as sodium and potassium.
10 percent of unexposed mussels in another tank died after
40 days, he said.
experiments, fish collected from the same waters and put
in the same tank as the mussels survived. Native clams
did not die until being exposed for 90 days.
said the technology would have to be installed in intake
pipes and the radio waves aimed at specific spots.