NEW MILFORD — The threat of an invasion of zebra mussels have reinvigorated a regional effort for lake organizations, as well as various state and federal agencies to find solutions to the invasive species’ arrival.

Thursday’s Regional Lakes Task Force meeting focused on zebra mussels, research so far and possible ways to reduce or prevent any mussels in the water. Using boat decontamination units, boat inspections, a trained dive team to remove the mussels by hand and using carbon dioxide to kill the mussels before they become adults were some of the proposed treatments.

New Milford Mayor David Gronbach started the discussion by stressing a need for collaboration to address the regional issues.

“Hopefully we can look at these issues from a macro point of view so talk can become actions and we can protect these resources for future generations,” he said.

Nearly 25 representatives from local lake organizations, FistLight Power Resources, Western Connecticut State University and representatives from the local, state and federal levels gathered at New Milford Town Hall for what organizers hope to be a continual process of discussing topics that pertain to the region. The event was planned by the Candlewood Lake Authority and hosted by the town of New Milford.

Work already started on some of the possible solutions.

Brookfield purchased the decontamination unit a few years ago, but money to staff the unit and a location for it have prevented the program from rolling out. Candlewood Lake Authority Executive Director Larry Marsicano said he is working on possibly using a part of the Kohl’s parking lot in Brookfield.

Boat inspections would also be a part of this to ensure boats are clean and to boost education and awareness on the importance of preventing invasive species from entering the water.

“I think the knowledge is getting out there,” said Eleanor Mariani, director of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Boating Division.

Another possibility is having divers remove the mussels by hand as they are found in Candlewood. Candlewood Lake Authority Chairwoman Phyllis Schaer said this method has been successful at Lake George.

Carbon dioxide is another possibility. A study was proposed last year to examine whether carbon dioxide kills the veligers, or mussel larvae, at Laurel Lake in Massachusetts, which some believe could be the source for the zebra mussels in the Housatonic River system. However, the study was delayed while a legal issue is resolved between the state and federal governments.

Bill Hyatt, DEEP’s Bureau Chief for Natural Resources, said he’s optimistic the issue will be resolved and the study can continue. He also said it could take several years from when veligers are found to when a colony is established so Candlewood can still stop a settlement from starting.

A suggestion was made to do the study somewhere else in Connecticut, but a key part of using the carbon dioxide is to cut off the mussels at the source.

“The idea was to cut off the head of the snake,” Marsicano said.

Ed Wong, a professor at Western, has been studying the DNA of the mussels in some of Connecticut’s waters and found that most in this area are more similar to those found in Lake Champlain, rather than those in Laurel Lake, which could mean the mussels are coming from a different source. He cautioned it was too early to determine that until more samples were tested.

For example, none of the thousands found at Bulls Bridge were tested, which some scientists thought might be closer to those in Massachusetts.

Ultimately, the entrance point for the zebra mussels at Candlewood Lake could be the Rocky River power station, which is owned and operated by FirstLight.

Stuart Piermarini, of FirstLight, said fish get through the turbines into the lake and suspects that the veligers would survive the trip, too. He said they prevent the mussels from entering the station using UV lights to kill the veligers in the eight-inch cooling tubes and screens to prevent the adults from entering. However, he said the penstock is 13 feet wide and carries 13 million gallons of water an hour, which is too big for UV lighting.

“It’s beyond what we can think about,” he said.

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345