Paddleboat Quarry hosts hundreds of guests to their waters during the summer months, but recently, the Park District found some uninvited ones as well.
“We discovered them this past fall at the end of October when we were pulling the paddle boats out, my guys were pulling them out and going, what are these things on the bottom of the boats, they were sharp to the touch,” said Tiffani Picco, Park Specialist II at The Naperville Park District.
A call to the Urban Research Center identified them as Zebra Mussels, from Russia.
The tiny critters made their way to the U.S. by hitching a ride on large ships. Since they can live for up to a week out of water, they clamped onto the bottom of boats, steadily making their way across the country, until they landed right here in Naperville.
“You can’t see them they’re invisible invaders so they’re kind of sticky so as these larva or veliger’s as their called sticking to your boat, sticking in your live wells, sticking in your fishing lines, bait buckets on your dog on your boots they’re everywhere,” said Jessi DeMartini, Ecologist at the Urban Research Center.
In the last few years, DuPage County officials have found large numbers in their lakes. Though they can’t say with certainty how they got into the quarry, their guess is either by people transporting them or from the city’s 2013 flood which may have caused infested waters to carry them over.
Though these mussels may have short-term benefits, such as cleaner water from eating algae and bacteria, they can cause long-term damage.
“Those little veliger’s that we were talking about can get through the screens in the irrigation system, so they get in they come thru the pump and as long as there’s active water there they attach themselves anywhere in the system and they start to grow, and from there they can reproduce if they survive the whole winter they’ll start to reproduce the next year, they send out thousand or hundreds of thousands little babies and those can survive and attach you can imagine its just a matter of a couple years before they start clogging the whole system, they start growing on top of each other any hard surface that they can attach to,” said Picco.
And if they find that Paddleboat Quarry has an infestation, it could be very costly to the District.
“Depending on the depth of the lake and the acreage of lake, to treat a whole lake, whoooo I can’t even imagine the cost! It would be well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said DeMartini.
To prevent the devastating cost of infestation, the Park District and the Urban Research Center have started promoting, the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program called “Be A Hero, Transport Zero” to fight the spread of aquatic invaders in the area.
“We need to get clean and remove all the plants that we see, or mud and water off your boat or your canoes or your equipment and the hose it down wash sit off when you get home let it dry rub it dry put vinegar on it do something, and the long term key is to let it sit and dry for 5 days,” said DeMartini.
Though these Zebra Mussels pose no threat to people, officials are asking residents that if you see these invaders, report them right away so authorities know which body of water they’re in.
The Park District is currently monitoring Paddleboat Quarry so that they can figure out the next steps for treatment.
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