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Coatings Pull Slick Trick on Mussels

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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Silicone coatings are proving an effective new weapon in the Pacific Northwest’s war on invasive mussels.

Researchers at the University of Portland’s Center for Lakes and Reservoirs are testing chemical coatings that they hope will keep nonnative mussels from attaching themselves to underwater surfaces and colonizing the Columbia River.

Coatings Evaluation

Using test panels connected to a dock at Port of Camas-Washougal, scientists are experimenting with three silicon-based compounds on steel and concrete surfaces.

 Dreissenid mussels cover a substrate.

 Steven Wells

Dreissenid mussels cover a substrate. Because eradication of the underwater pests is so diffiult, the goal  for managing at-risk waters is early detection and interdiction, experts say.

Results of the coatings research will be gathered against two controls—bare concrete without any coating, and concrete treated with a “crystal seal” currently used in the area. Twenty-seven test frames were assembled at the dock earlier this year, holding dozens of test panels.

The three-year evaluation will determine how well the chemical treatments last in the water. Ultimately, researchers will take the test panels to Lake Mead, on the Colorado River, to see how mussels there react to the coating.

At that time, the team will also test how much force is needed to remove the mussels from the surfaces. Scientists are hopeful that the water current itself might be enough to do the job.

Warding off Invasion

The Center for Lakes and Reservoirs was established by the Oregon State Legislature to address lake management and invasive aquatic species issues in Oregon. The Center’s many efforts include an online interactive Zebra and Quagga Mussel Monitoring Map.

Researchers there hope to prevent an unchecked invasion by the mussels that are plaguing underwater substrates, clogging infrastructure, and crowding out native aquatic species in many other parts of the country.

 Portland State University’s Center for Lakes and Reservoirs tracks invasive species with a Mussel Monitoring Map.
Portland State University’s Center for Lakes and Reservoirs tracks invasive species with a Mussel Monitoring Map.

The study is in its second year and was financed by a $210,000 grant from the Bonneville Power Administration. The initiative is the most recent collaboration between BPA and PSU in attempting to thwart the mussels.

A presentation explains the research.

Keeping an eye on these determined invaders is on the minds of numerous scientists and environmentalists in the Northwest, where an invasion could clog dams that provide half of the region’s electricity.

The state of Oregon recently mandated the inspection of boats trailered in; so far, just a handful were found to be carrying mussels. (Native mussels in Oregon do not attach to surfaces, so the nonnatives are easy to spot.)

Silicone Promising

Silicone foul-release coatings are showing promise in a three-year study on the Colorado River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation involves testing more than 50 antifouling and foul-release coatings on still and flowing waters at Parker Dam on the Colorado River.

 Thumbnail-sized zebra mussels clog pipes, dams and other submerged substrates, causing costly damage.

 Portland State University

Thumbnail-sized zebra mussels clog pipes, dams and other submerged substrates, causing costly damage.

Some of the coatings in that study worked so well that flowing water itself dislodged the mussels without any human intervention.  The foul-release coatings lowered the rate of mussel settlement and made it easier to remove those that were attached.

“In many cases, it was found water flowing at 0.1 feet per second provided sufficient force to remove mussel colonies,” Allen D. Skaja, Ph.D., PCS, of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Technical Service Center, says in a video report on the project.


Tagged categories: Antifoulants; Concrete; Marine; Research; Silicone; Steel

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