Natural organisms have varied purpose in an ecosystem, some of which make them ideally suited to act as the filters of chemicals and other pollutants from the water and air.

Biologists measure, number and tag freshwater mussels from Deer Creek at Rocks State Park to reintroduce the species to the Patapsco River. (Credit: Maryland DNR) Maryland is the latest state to take steps toward bringing back freshwater mussels ELLICOTT CITY, Md.—Under the waters of the Patapsco River in Maryland, new life is forming. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has planted freshwater mussels into the river in hopes of restoring a population of molluscs that once lived in the waters. And the Maryland project is just one of many in the country attempting to save nature’s water filters. Freshwater mussel species, unlike those that dwell in salt water, are not eaten. But they do serve a large purpose for the ecosystem. They filter water. A lot of water. In healthy mussel beds along the Delaware River Basin, there are about 200,000 to 300,000 mussels per every 2.5 acres. Those mussels can filter about 10 million gallons of water per day. Each year they filter about 10 tons of suspended matter—such as dirt, algae and pollutants— out of the water, Danielle Kreeger, senior science director at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, told EHN. "Those are pretty big numbers. And […]

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