Zebra mussels are an invasive species in the U.S. and many other countries. Attempts to control them have proven futile. They’re apparently here to stay for a while, but what use are they? One innovative Lake Michigan resident has an idea – use them to make beaches.
Zebra mussels are prolific. They push out other species and take over large areas of fresh water. They also leave behind a large amount of shells when they die. These shells wash ashore and can form piles four feet high on the beach.
The sharp shells mean that anyone who wants to walk on the beach needs to wear shoes. When R.J. Elsing’s son cut his hands on sharp-edged zebra mussel shells, he decided to do something about them.
He invented the Beachmaker.
The Beachmaker vacuums up the shells from the shore and grinds them up into sand that takes up about one-third the space of the original shells.
Elsing’s prototype grinds up seventeen cubic feet of shells per hour. That’s about one dump truck load. He’s working on tripling that speed.
The sand that’s created is a calcium sand. Other possible uses might be as a soil additive, bedding for livestock, mortar sand, or anything else that uses sand.
Initial environmental tests show no adverse impacts on the environment. The Beachmaker sits above the high water line and does not stir debris. Tests will continue through the summer.
A consumer version might be on the market as soon as January 2013.
Zebra mussel photo via Creative Commons