By: Nancy Eve Cohen

The zebra mussel, an invasive species, was discovered in Lakes Zoar and Lillinonah about a month ago. But some people are concerned it could also end up in Candlewood Lake. The Candlewood Lake Authority is holding a panel discussion tonight on the zebra mussel at Western Connecticut State University. WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports.

The zebra mussel is considered a kind of poster child for invasive species because it can be so destructive. The mussel, which comes from Russia, reproduces rapidly, choking out native mussel species and changing the way ecosystems function. They adhere, en masse, to any hard surface and can clog industrial pipes. The razor sharp shells can be dangerous for swimmers.

The zebra mussel was first found In Connecticut in East and West Twin Lakes in Salisbury in 1998. Just last year it was discovered in Laurel Lake in Lee, Massachusetts, not far from Connecticut. And in a stream from that lake that feeds the Housatonic River and in the river itself. Now it’s also in Lakes Zoar and Lillinonah. Ethan Nedeau is an ecological consultant for First Light, which has hydro electric facilities on the river. Nadeau says part of Candlewood Lake contains calcium at levels that the mussel needs to thrive.

“It does seem pretty likely that overtime zebra mussels will reach Candlewood Lake and conditions are certainly favorable in the northeast arm of the lake.”

Peter Aarrestad of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection says the state is working hard to educate fishermen and others to clean all the water out of their boats before going from one lake to another to prevent the spread of the mussel

“Even removing aquatic plants from a boat trailer because the very small mussels can adhere to plants. That’s actually a fairly common way the mussels are transported from one water body to another.”

About 800 live zebra mussels were found in Lake Zoar and about 30 in Lake Lillinonah. It’s not known yet how they got there.

For WNPR, I’m Nancy Cohen.