SCDNR: Invasive mussels found in product sold at SC stores

Lowcountry Beaches

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows a group of zebra mussels. The invasive species of small mollusks seen sporadically in the Dakotas in past years is establishing a population in two river systems. Federal officials are offering a $100,000 prize in a crowdsourcing effort to find a way to kill invasive quagga and zebra mussels. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says the only area not yet invaded by the mussels in the contiguous U.S. is the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest that contains struggling runs of salmon and steelhead. The basin is also heavily harnessed for hydroelectric power, and officials estimate it will cost $500 million annually to fight the mussels if they infest infrastructure. (U.S. Department of Agriculture via AP, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) on Friday announced that an invasive species of mussels has been found in a product sold at stores in South Carolina.

Zebra mussels are “highly invasive, reproduce quickly, and can cause huge problems” for SC waterways, according to SCDNR’s Chief of Freshwater Fisheries, Ross Self.

If Zebra mussels are introduced to local waterways, they can cause the following problems, according to SCDNR:

  • Clogging municipal, industrial and power plant water supply systems;
  • Causing taste and odor problems in drinking water;
  • Damaging boat engines and fouling boat hulls;
  • Killing native mollusks, disrupting aquatic food chains and eliminating fish spawning beds;
  • Creating foul-smelling eyesores at beaches and other recreational areas.

The mussels were confirmed “in containers of ‘moss balls,’ a species of filamentous algae used in home aquariums.”

SCDNR is urging people who may have purchased contaminated moss balls that “the moss balls themselves, or water from aquarium tanks that they have been in, SHOULD NOT be disposed of down sink drains, flushed in toilets or dumped in any river or stream.”

If the moss ball has not yet been placed in a tank, the moss ball can be decontaminated in one of the following ways:

  • Place the moss ball into a sealable plastic bag and freeze for at least 48 hours, OR
  • Place the moss ball in boiling water for at least 1 full minute, OR
  • Submerge the moss ball in chlorine bleach, diluted to one cup of bleach per gallon of water, for 20 minutes, OR
  • Submerge the moss ball in undiluted white vinegar for 20 minutes.

After decontamination, the moss ball can be placed in a sealed bag and thrown away. SCDNR says that “water that contained the moss ball should be diluted with bleach at 1/4 cup per gallon or boiled for one minute.”

If the moss ball was already placed in a tank, SCDNR says to decontaminate the ball using one of the above methods, and take the following additional steps:

  • Collect any fish or other living organisms and place them in another container, with water from a separate, uncontaminated water source.
  • Sterilize the contaminated aquarium water by adding ¼ teaspoon bleach for each gallon of water. Let the water site for 15 minutes and then dispose the sterilized water down a household drain.
  • Clean the aquarium and accessories using one of the following methods, ensuring that the disposal method you choose is in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations:
    • Make a disinfection solution using 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water.
    • Soak the aquarium, substrate, rocks, décor, and filter media in the bleach water solution for 15 minutes.
    • Rinse off all items prior to setting up the aquarium.
    • Dispose of the previously used filter media and replace with new media.
    • Use a dechlorinating product to neutralize any residual chlorine prior to reintroducing aquatic life.
    • It is recommended that you do another water change within a week and continue to monitor the tank for any unusual or unexpected aquatic life. 

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