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Osage City water superintendent Ken Talkington holds a handful of zebra mussels flushed from the Melvern Lake supply line that provides drinking water to Osage City and its water customers.

Wayne White | Managing Editor

OSAGE CITY—For almost two months Osage City water users have been drinking water supplied from the city’s lake, instead of water from Melvern Lake. The reason is a tiny animal that has wreaked havoc on public water systems across the nation, zebra mussels. The mussels have plugged portions of the 10-mile water line that delivers water from Melvern Lake to Osage City’s water treatment plant. The mussels, which multiply in great numbers and attach themselves in mass to solid objects, were first discovered in Melvern Lake in July of last year.

Zebra mussels were discovered to have plugged the pipeline about the first part of last month, when pressure decreased at the water plant. According to Osage City’s utility director, Mike Gilliland, it was first believed that a leak was causing the problem.

“We thought there was a leak between the plant and Melvern Lake,” Gilliland told the Osage City Council during last week’s council meeting. “We spent maybe two weeks hunting for a leak in the line.”

Gilliland said city staff was baffled by the pressure problem, and “in desperation, we opened a valve” near the water plant. When a pile of zebra mussels came out of the valve, the problem was identified. Further inspection revealed several areas along the pipeline that had accumulated zebra mussels, which obstructed the pipeline. Mussels were also found inside of the water plant in several valves.

“The migration and spread of this problem was much more rapid than was thought by the experts at the time of discovery,” Gilliland reported to the council in an agenda memo.

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