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Soil bacteria could be key to fighting zebra mussels

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Cluster of mussels
A cluster of zebra mussels rest on a piece of driftwood that was pulled from Pelican Lake on Thursday, July 12, 2012.
Ann Arbor Miller for MPR

Scientists at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are studying a possible natural solution to zebra mussel infestations.

Researchers are using water from Lake Carlos in central Minnesota to mimic a natural environment for zebra mussels treated with Zequanox, which is made from a common soil bacteria that's toxic to zebra mussels.

The product has already proven effective in closed systems, like power plant pipes, says DNR invasive species specialist Nathan Olson.

Researchers will check in four weeks to see how many zebra mussels survived. 

"This is probably the best product we have right now that's really selective for zebra mussels," Olson said. "And they've tested it on a number of fish species and other native mussels and some other invertebrates and insects and so you know compared to some of the really corrosive options that we have, such as chlorine or copper sulfate, things like that. This is probably the best product that's out there right now."

Olson said a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supports the DNR testing of Zequanox.

"We're still doing it in a research setting, in a research trailer, there's no Zequanox being put into the lake," Olson said. "But they're actually still using lake water to at least mimic as much as possible what it would be like in a natural environment if you use this product."