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Divers to inspect mussel infestation

But none in drinking water, officials tell council

Managing editor

City officials knew zebra mussels were at Marion Reservoir, the source of the city’s drinking water, but did not know the mollusks have infiltrated the city’s water supply.

Currently, the nuisances aren’t interfering with water quality or the production of safe drinking water but the mussels have a reputation of causing mayhem.

The mussels can attach themselves to pipes, forming colonies inside them and clogging the flow of water.

Water plant operator Marty Fredrickson said a chemical kills the mussels during the treatment process, so there is no danger of mussels being passed through the water supply and to customers. However, the problem isn’t with the live mollusks; it’s with the shells that are left behind.

Hillsboro water plant is experiencing the same issues, only worse because the city’s water supply is closer to the intake source.

City administrator David Mayfield said divers would come in October to inspect the intake area at the reservoir, determining the extent of the infestation. Hillsboro will want a similar inspection, which would allow the two cities to share the initial cost of $2,100 for the divers to come to Marion County. An additional $425 per hour will be charged by the divers to complete the work.

And more bad news

The federal government is requiring dikes to be inspected and meet specific guidelines. To complete the initial inspection per federal guidelines, the city has found there is only one engineer in the state that is qualified — Wilson and Company — at a cost of more than $45,000.

Congress had approved the guidelines in the last session and now cities are looking to the lawmakers for assistance. Mayfield said he would attend a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss funding options with federal lawmakers.

Entities have two years to become compliant, which is not a sufficient amount of time for Marion, Mayfield said.

“I asked the engineer what would happen if the city did nothing,” he told the council.

Mayfield said he was told a new flood map, issued by Federal Emergency Management Agency, would not show the dike, therefore requiring landowners in the area to purchase flood insurance.

Councilman Steve Smith asked if there were any chance Congress would repeal the decision.

Some believe the law was passed without Congress fully understanding its effects, Mayfield said.

Last modified Sept. 22, 2010

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