Seeing a recent kvue article (link below) about the growing Zebra Mussel problem in several area lakes brought back memories from the winter of 2011-2012 when our company was awarded a large contract to clean up a water line up on the northern border of Texas at Lake Texoma. That was the first recognized Zebra Mussel infestation to reach Texas.
Our contract was comprised of building appurtenances that allowed a huge rubber pig (a large cylindrical apparatus with an abrasive coating) that could be inserted in the lake end of an eleven mile six foot diameter water line.
This would be done with the water drained from the line. After the pig was in place, water would be introduced back into the line. The water would force the pig to move along the eleven mile route, scouring the interior of the line to remove the mussels. Once it reached the Sherman Water Treatment Plant, the pig could be removed from the line through a retrieval station that we had installed.
Additionally we built a large holding pond, where all the water could be contained and allowed to evaporate, allowing for complete extermination of the Zebra Mussels.
The water company anticipated they would need to run the pig through yearly to control the mussel growth.
It was also necessary for us to replace sections of the 72″ water line where there were turns/angles in the line to withstand the additional pressures created by this process. This was done in approximately 20 locations along the pipeline route.
Once we began the project by draining the line and we found how thick the mussels were attached on the interior of the line, it became imperative that we hand clean and remove all growth. They had built up to a depth of 6″ to 12″ on the whole circumference of the pipe. Luckily that was just in the first 2000 feet or so nearest to the water pump station on the lake end. It was a task accomplished by manually scraping them them off and wheelbarrowing them to an opening, then bringing them to the top of the ground where they were disposed of.
Of course with absence of water, the mussels died and began to decay rapidly. The workers had to enter the space inside with respirators. It was a putrid, horrible experience for those men. But they made it through over a few days of enduring that task.
We hired divers to go underwater to clean areas of the pump station where it couldn’t be drained.
It’s hard for me to even imagine the devastation we are in for with our lakes and Zebra Mussels.