DENTON COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - They are a species about the size of a dime, but the damage they are causing will cost one city millions. Zebra mussels have moved from Lake Ray Roberts into the water system in Denton.
The infestation is something like a clogged pipe problem. Each mussel that moves into the main water line threatens to clog things up. Even though there is currently only a thin layer of zebra mussels in the system Denton officials say it will cost some $500,000 to clean.
Zebra mussels have been moving through Lake Ray Roberts for two years. But fishermen, like Lawson King, say now they see them just about everywhere.
"You can catch branches and it's covered in zebra mussels," he said.
A few of the mussels showed up in Denton's water treatment plant last fall. The Army Corps of Engineers found them coating underwater screens.
Denton water manager Tim Fisher decided it would be best if they looked to see if the mussels were also on city water lines.
"We weren't really sure what we were going to find," he said.
City workers put a camera in the pipeline, where the city pulls its raw water out of Lake Ray Roberts, and found 80-percent of it covered in zebra mussels. That discovery prompted them to submerge another camera by the water treatment plant. That video showed that 20-percent of the pipeline was covered.
To keep water flowing, Denton city leaders were told Thursday that money is needed to fund four cleanup and mussel control projects.
"Look at all the other facts and it pretty much made sense," Fisher said.
The zebra mussel projects are estimated to cost $3 million. The expenditures will probably result in a near one-percent increase in area utility bills – for now.
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