Lifestyle & Human Interest

This Entire Town Is Kept Safe from Disaster by a Small Group of Clams


Some scientists in Warsaw, Poland, have decided that clams are good for more than just eating and creating pearls.

The city of Warsaw is home to nearly 2 million people.

The majority of the water supply comes from the Vistula River and is treated at the Central plant, which has two water treatment stations.

One of several techniques used as a type of early warning system for an issue with the water supply does include clams. Anna Zdanowicz, Water Technology Department Head MPWiK Warsaw detailed just how the clams are used.

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Zdanowicz said the clams are caught in a clean lake, taken to the water facility lab, and given about two weeks to acclimate to the facility’s aquarium.

They’re also calibrated to determine what angle of the opening is 100 percent versus 0 percent.

There are eight clams involved, and they are attached to pedestals, which are in turn attached to a probe that receives signals from a sensor mounted on the shell of each clam.

The sensors are attached with a special type of glue, which is safe for the clams.

Would you trust this clam system if you lived in Warsaw?

Three months later, the clams are returned to their natural habitat.

The way in which they know that the clams are indicating a problem with the water is by how much they are opened or closed. If six of the eight clams close their shells for more than four minutes, it suggests a problem. The threshold is 25 percent open or less.

However, a complex system of water purification and detailed lab tests are also in place, according to Explore Poland.

The Polish Government guarantees its citizens that tap water in Poland is “safe” and “drinkable,” according to TapSafe.

The technique of using clams as an aide for helping to insure the safety of the water system is a type of biomonitoring.

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Another area in Poland that uses biomonitoring is Poznań, Poland. Their aquatic creature of choice is mussels, according to the Australian Water Association.

The U.S. city of Minneapolis also uses mussels to assist with monitoring the water supply safety in that city, according to WCCO.

Biomonitoring can be used for reasons other than just monitoring water supplies.

The California Biomonitoring website described biomonitoring in connection to people as, “…the measurement of chemicals (or their metabolites) in a person’s body fluids or tissues, such as blood or urine. It tells us the amount of the chemical that actually gets into people from all sources (for example, from air, soil, water, dust and food) combined. Because of this, biomonitoring can provide useful information on how much exposure to toxic chemicals a person has had.”

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