Early research at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL, found the zebra mussel removes solids and some nutrients from diluted liquid swine manure.

The researchers found a 90% improvement in the amount of suspended solids in the liquid manure. The mussels also appeared to reduce odor.

The zebra mussel, considered a detriment to freshwater ecosystems, is a natural water filter. It constantly pulls water through its body, filtering out nutrients it needs to live. The remaining particles are coated in a mucus-like film called pseudofeces, which settle out of the water.

Researchers now are trying to determine if the mussels or the pseudofeces have value as a plant nutrient. Researchers also are looking at how to include the mussels in a waste-treatment system.

Researcher: Dick Steffen, Southern Illinois University (618)453-6985.