Russian "scallop garden" will monitor pollution

Fri Oct 8, 2010 8:50am EDT
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By Jessica Bachman

KOZMINO, Russia (Reuters) - Some prefer them grilled or steamed, but Russian scientists will now use sea scallops to monitor pollution levels at a Pacific oil terminal.

An enormous sea scallop garden will be set up at the end of this month in Russia's Far East Kozmino Bay, eight time zones east of Moscow. It will be the first Russian port to use mollusks as a water-monitoring instrument.

"Scallops are a very good measure of water pollution because they are very sensitive to contaminants. They absorb and retain impurities" said Natalia Vykhodtseva, the organic chemist at the helm of Kozmino's ecological safety department.

She added that while sea scallops -- which prefer to live at depths of 20-22 meters (64-70 feet) -- are known for their ability to filter contaminants such as oil or heavy metals, the main purpose of the garden at present is to monitor the bay.

"If the monitoring is successful, we have an idea to create large permanent colonies for scallops, mussels and seaweed at the bottom of the bay and use them to filter the water and keep it clean," said Vykhodtseva.

The Kozmino port, launched at the beginning of this year by Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, sits at the bottom of a forested hill range in a bay on the Sea of Japan.

The only export terminal for crude tapped from new East Siberian deposits, it will ship out 200 million barrels next year, meaning the number of tankers calling into port will double, raising greater concern over pollution.

"If oil happens to leak into the water, the scallops will imbibe it, filtering back out the clean water," Vykhodtseva said.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows an oil terminal at Russia's Far-East port of Kozmino October 4, 2010. RREUTERS/Jessica Bachman</p>