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Mussel infestation is becoming more of an issue for ships working in Alaska. The fishing fleets that home port in Seattle and make their way north a couple times a year could be carrying them north or they may become infested in the various ports in Alaska. Either way more and more customers are reporting issues with the mussels growing in the piping systems and heat exchangers.

How do the mussels get deep into the ships systems? Looking at their life cycle explained it. While the mussel are in the early stages of life and microscopic, they are in the water floating around looking for a home and will attach to a substrate. At that point it takes about 30 days for them to grow from 1/10th of a millimeter to 0.35 of a millimeter. They are so small you generally won’t see them with the naked eye. They keep growing and left in place they can grow to be dozens of years old. They will start reproduction at 1 to 2 years of age and the number of offspring to be an average of 7 million!

The Buying Network has deployed various chemical treatments to help with issue over the years, but they didn’t seem to be 100% effective and the amount of chemical needed to work was expensive and seemed excessive in volume to work well. So the search was on to find a better solution.

We found what seems to be the holy grail of keeping these little critters controlled. It is an ionized copper in a liquid carrier with a positive charge. The positive charge makes it disperse in water rapidly. Why the positive charge? They can use it in lake and can simple pour in the liquid in one end of a lake and in a couples days it is found miles away at the other end, making the treatment of freshwater reservoirs is easy. It is NSF approved for drinking water and is used in lakes that have fish in them and at municipality’s water sources. The reason that this product works so well; one, its poison to mussels in very low doses and number two, they can’t detect that it’s in the water.

Why it is important that the mussels can’t detect the chemical? They are very sensitive to chemicals and will close and not feed if they sense contamination. Once a poison is detected they stay closed for about 24 hours, then open and try to feed again. If they sense the chemical is still there, they close and later open in a couple of days. If they sense the poison is still in the water they stay closed for around a week and then finally have to start feeding. This is when you have to provide the poisonous dose or the cycle starts all over again. This is why other products needed to be dosed very frequently and continually to work. It’s just a gamble if you are going to get a lethal dose to get the kill.

The copper based product was designed to combat the invasive zebra mussel. This raised a question; will it work on the mussels we have in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, the “common” or blue mussel. There was not much data on it, but enough it was worth exploring.

After testing aboard multiple ships we found that we can get a 100% kill. Once the system is clean of the larger dead mussels, the treatment kills the baby mussel when they are so small that they will pass through the heat exchanger and other equipment then back to the sea. You should be able to reduce the frequency of opening equipment to inspect for mussel infestations and just monitor pressure differentials.

A simple chemical injection pump dosing into the sea chest will protect all the salt water systems aboard. Once the system is clean of adults, the maintenance dosing is only a handful of days each month.


Contact The Buying Network for a tailored program for your ship and stop fighting the never ending battle.