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Environ Manage. 2007 Jul;40(1):105-12. Epub 2007 May 24.

Economic impacts of zebra mussels on drinking water treatment and electric power generation facilities.

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Human Dimensions Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Invasions of nonnative species such as zebra mussels can have both ecological and economic consequences. The economic impacts of zebra mussels have not been examined in detail since the mid-1990s. The purpose of this study was to quantify the annual and cumulative economic impact of zebra mussels on surface water-dependent drinking water treatment and electric power generation facilities (where previous research indicated the greatest impacts). The study time frame was from the first full year after discovery in North America (Lake St. Clair, 1989) to the present (2004); the study area was throughout the mussels' North American range. A mail survey resulted in a response rate of 31% for electric power companies and 41% for drinking water treatment plants. Telephone interviews with a sample of nonrespondents assessed nonresponse bias; only one difference was found and adjusted for. Over one-third (37%) of surveyed facilities reported finding zebra mussels in the facility and almost half (45%) have initiated preventive measures to prevent zebra mussels from entering the facility operations. Almost all surveyed facilities (91%) with zebra mussels have used control or mitigation alternatives to remove or control zebra mussels. We estimated that 36% of surveyed facilities experienced an economic impact. Expanding the sample to the population of the study area, we estimated 267 million dollars (BCa 95% CI = 161 million dollars - 467 million dollars) in total economic costs for electric generation and water treatment facilities through late 2004, since 1989. Annual costs were greater (44,000 dollars/facility) during the early years of zebra mussel infestation than in recent years (30,000 dollars). As a result of this and other factors, early predictions of the ultimate costs of the zebra mussel invasion may have been excessive.

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