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Fairmount Waterworks Opens Mussel Exhibit Along River Trail

by Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Fairmount Water Works is hatching a plan to help clean the water we drink every day, with a Mussels Hatchery.

The exhibit along the Schuylkill River Trail, near the Art Museum, opens Friday.

The new installation is part living science laboratory, and part interactive exhibit featuring mussels, but not the kind you eat with a plate of linguine.

"Freshwater mussels, I mean, they're not a sexy species.," said Lance Butler, a senior scientist with the Philadelphia Water Department, Office of Watersheds.

Each of these palm-sized creatures is like a "mini water-treatment facility," according to Butler.

"They perform a lot of eco-system services for us. They filter water at a very alarming rate - up to 20 gallons a day per mussel," he explained.

They suck in water, trap pollutants, and release clean, filtered water and nutrients.

"Some of these live 60, 80, some even 100 years old. They are our canary in the coal mine, for the water," said Butler.

Butler says the project is designed educate folks about these ecosystem engineers, breed mussel babies, and eventually reintroduce them in the Schuylkill.

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