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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (April 20, 1998) - When the zebra mussel flexes its might, the power industry cowers at the half a billion dollars each year it shells out to remove these pesky and prolific mollusks from intake pipes.

“Their ability to reproduce is phenomenal,” said Dr. Paul Johnson, research scientist for the Tennessee Aquarium’s Southeast Aquatic Research Institute. Growing as many as 300,000 per square yard, the inch-long creatures can firmly attach themselves to anything hard -- the insides of pipes, boat hulls, docks, or even live animals like freshwater mussels and crayfish.

Johnson and other zebra mussel experts will address methods to control population growth at the Southern Region Zebra Mussel Conference, which will be held April 20-22 at the Chattanooga Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.

Johnson is interested in ways to control the animals without toxic chemicals such as chlorine. His April 21 presentation will focus on the effects of low oxygen and elevated carbon dioxide levels on zebra mussel survivorship.

Natives of Russia, zebra mussels arrived in Lake Saint Claire, near Detroit, Michigan in 1986. Since that time they have spread throughout the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River drainages. Although zebra mussels are found in the Tennessee River, so far they have not been found in the overwhelming numbers that cause such major problems to industries in the Great Lakes and Ohio River. They are spread primarily through commercial navigation operations.

The conference is sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority, US Army Corps of Engineers WES, Ohio Sea Grant, Kentucky-Tennessee AWWA, Louisiana Sea Grant, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.

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