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Experimental weapon against invasive mussels in Christmas Lake 'successful'

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When state officials deployed Zequanox (an experimental product designed to kill off a highly invasive aquatic species) in Christmas Lake last fall, the scientist who developed it boldly said it would make history.

Seven months later, it appears he may have been right.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Monday that a three-step treatment process starting with the use of Zequanox apparently rid the lake of an infestation of zebra mussels.

According to a news release from the DNR, a week of searches by dive teams turned up no sign of the mussels in the Shorewood-area lake, where the invasive muss was found last year.

Christmas Lake is the first Minnesota lake where the substance was used.

The release indicates that the infestation was caught in the early stages, and that the treatment focused on the specific area of the lake in which the mussels were first discovered.

“We are encouraged by these early results,” a DNR official said. “We used every available tool to respond to this isolated zebra mussel infestation and learned valuable information in terms of responding to new infestations.”

Indeed, Zequanox, described as a "a natural substance highly selective to zebra and quagga mussels," was only the first step in a three-pronged process to eradicate the mussels.

When conditions became too cold for Zequanox, officials turned to EarthTec QZ, a copper treatment, and then potassium chloride (also known as potash), both experimental tactics as well, the release says.

So why all the fuss?

The zebra mussel is not native to Minnesota – in fact, it is indigenous to Eastern Europe and Western Russia. The mussel is believed to have been carried to North America in the ballast water of international freighters.

This seemingly harmless little creature may not appear to be such a threat, but it has been known to breed rapidly and clog pipes, motorboat engines, and leave nasty slices on swimmers' feet.

The invasive species can also crowd out native mussels and consume the food sources of other aquatic animals.

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