Clam Cleanup

Biologists are able to determine the sources of toxins in water by using clams as pollutant traps. Clams naturally clean water by feeding absorbing toxins in their tissues as they draw in water. By placing the clams downstream of industrial parks and highways, they can be analyzed for pollutants. Biologists open the clams after exposure to these waters and detach them from their shells– various lab tests reveal contaminants in the waterway.

Clams are filter-feeders, meaning they draw water into their shells, remove the food they find, and then draw in more food-rich water to continue feeding. This means that lots of water works its way through their shells. The muscle of the clam gathers not only food, but other material suspended in water during this process, which can lead to the accumulation of toxins and pollutants. Bioaccumulation is the term for toxins and pollutants that collect in the tissue of an organism. Biomagnification is a related term, referring to the transfer of such substances from prey to predator. If a prey animal bioaccumulates toxins in its body, then its predator, after consuming many of the smaller animals will accumulate many, many times the amount of the toxin in any one of their prey.
Even if your tap water meets the DWAF’s* basic requirement for safe drinking water, some people still object to the taste, smell or appearance of their water. These are aesthetic concerns, however, and therefore fall under the DWAF’s voluntary secondary standards. Some tap water is drinkable, but may be temporarily clouded because of air bubbles, or have a chlorine taste. A bleach-like taste can be improved by letting the water stand exposed to the air for a while.