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Planned multi-million-dollar mussel hatchery meant to improve water quality

The Clean Water Act nonprofit Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) is planning to build a hatchery for mussels to improve water quality in the region.

Adult mussels filter up to 10 gallons of water a day, but their populations are dwindling in fresh bodies of water across the country.

“So this massive decline of these natural water filters in our streams makes it that much more difficult to clean the water mechanically through treatment,” said PDE Science Director Danielle Kreeger.

Scientists expect restoring mussel populations in the rivers and streams of the Delaware River Watershed will help remove suspended particles in the water. But Kreeger says it remains to be seen if the mollusks will contribute materially to water quality. She says this project is likely the first of its kind.

“This concept really hasn’t ever been tested in any major way in freshwater systems and that’s what we’re hoping to do here, is to promote large scale mussel restorations in areas where they were historically abundant—of the right type, the right species, the right genetics—and hope that we see benefits to clean water,” said Kreeger.

The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PENNVEST, is funneling $7.9 million into the project. This funds construction of the hatchery at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia along with several satellite operations in rivers and ponds.

The groundbreaking is planned for next year and Kreeger says the facility will be producing half-a-million mussels a year by 2023.

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