November 4, 2009

We are being invaded!

by Bob Murphy

Mussels Muscling In On Our Water Processing Structures

Who would have thought that water discharged from an ocean-going commercial vessel’s ballast tanks in Lake St. Clair (between lakes Erie and Huron) in 1988 would have such far reaching effects on the immersed structures of our water processing and power generation industries?  And yet, that discharge brought with it invasive zebra mussels from Europe which readily thrived in the Great Lakes’ waters.

Distribution in 1988

Distribution in 1988

Not only did they thrive, but they were soon joined by the equally invasive quagga mussels and in twenty years both species have managed to spread across a significant portion of the lakes, rivers and tributaries of our country.  Even some saltwater coastal sightings have been made.  When asked about mussel infestation in his water intake structures, a representative of a major power generator in the southeast recently lamented “we haven’t seen them yet, but we know they’re coming!”.

2009 Distribution

2009 Distribution

Possibly less threatening to the water process industry, the invasive green lip mussel has joined the zebra and quagga mussels, thriving along the southern coastal regions of our country.

Why are these invasive species, along with indigenous ones, detrimental to the water process industry?  Simply stated, these bio-fouling organisms attach to and negatively impact operating equipment performance and efficiency by reducing water flow and littering the system with shells.  Such structures as trash rack, screens, intake tunnels and pipes and interiors of pump housings are often targets for attachment.

Of further concern, once present, the colonization period for these fouling organisms can be quite short.  Given the right conditions, infestation can be rapid as evidenced in the following pictures.

Quagga mussel colonization on an unpainted steel grate in the lower Colorado River.  Immersion time – less than six months

Quagga mussel colonization on an unpainted steel grate in the lower Colorado River. Immersion time – less than six months

Shopping cart left in zebra mussel-infested waters for a few months.

Shopping cart left in zebra mussel-infested waters for a few months.

Further consequences of dealing with bio-fouling indigenous and invasive species are:

  • Lost productivity
  • Unplanned outages
  • Shortened life of equipment and physical assets
  • Increased cost of early replacement of equipment and assets
  • Increased cost of investing in combative equipment and systems
  • Increased maintenance time and costs

Are there solutions for those in the water processing industry plagued with bio-fouling?  Yes, and Sherwin-Williams has a coatings system answer!  Look for more in the upcoming WaterBlog titled Muscling Out Mussels In The Water Process Industry.

Special thanks to Charles Fisher, Fujifilm Hunt Smart Surfaces, LLC

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