Mussels take up new life in DuPage River

  • Jessi DeMartini, back, of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center, leads the release of about 500 freshwater mussels into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. Members of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance donated their time and financial resources to assist the project.

    Jessi DeMartini, back, of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center, leads the release of about 500 freshwater mussels into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. Members of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance donated their time and financial resources to assist the project. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Aquatic technician Joe Limpers of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center shows a handful of freshwater mussels tagged and ready to be placed into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville.

    Aquatic technician Joe Limpers of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center shows a handful of freshwater mussels tagged and ready to be placed into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Jessi DeMartini, left, of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center, leads the release of about 500 freshwater mussels into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. The mussels, combined with planting of water willow and sweet flag, help mature the ecosystem.

    Jessi DeMartini, left, of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center, leads the release of about 500 freshwater mussels into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. The mussels, combined with planting of water willow and sweet flag, help mature the ecosystem. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Aquatic technician Joe Limpers of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center, helps improve the ecosystem with the release of about 500 freshwater mussels into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville.

    Aquatic technician Joe Limpers of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center, helps improve the ecosystem with the release of about 500 freshwater mussels into the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Don Rego, left, Bill Chase, center, and Craig Holderness, right, plant water willow and sweet flag into the bed of the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. The trio are members of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance who donated their time and financial resources to assist the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center. The plants help improve the water's ecosystem.

    Don Rego, left, Bill Chase, center, and Craig Holderness, right, plant water willow and sweet flag into the bed of the West Branch DuPage River Saturday near Warrenville. The trio are members of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance who donated their time and financial resources to assist the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Urban Stream Research Center. The plants help improve the water's ecosystem. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 6/24/2017 5:00 PM

It wasn't exactly majestic, like one of those times when an eagle has recovered from its injuries and is released back into the wild and soars away over the treetops.

But while the release of hundreds of freshwater mussels into the West Branch of the DuPage River near Warrenville may have lacked drama, forest preserve officials say the tiny creatures could have a long-lasting impact on the environmental health of the river by taking in large amounts of water and filtering out bacteria, algae or decaying plant or animal matter before passing clean water back into the river.

 

Saturday morning's release was one of many that will take place over the next six months that aim to place roughly 9,000 mussels into the river with the goal of improving water quality and giving new hope to an endangered species.

Experts at the DuPage Forest Preserve District's Urban Stream Research Center spent the past 2½ years working to raise the freshwater mussels at a facility in Blackwell's Forest Preserve in Warrenville.

They cultivated three species native to DuPage and what they lack in size they make up for in colorful names -- the plain pocketbook mussel, the fat mucket mussel and the white heelsplitter mussel.

Native freshwater mussel populations have been declining for a number of reasons, officials say, including sedimentation, stormwater runoff, chemicals, pollutants and competition from invasive species such as the zebra mussel.

Officials hope the new additions will augment and bolster the existing populations. Mussels ultimately will be released at a dozen locations along a 13-mile stretch of the West Branch between Gary's Mill Road in Warrenville and 87th Street in Naperville.

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