St Albans’ Verulamium Park lake branded ‘disgusting’

PUBLISHED: 12:56 29 March 2012

Jon Humphrey beside Verulamium park lake.

Jon Humphrey beside Verulamium park lake.


A POPULAR tourist attraction in St Albans is polluted and devoid of underwater life because a thick layer of waterfowl faeces is smothering the bed, according to a recent survey.

Jon Humphrey, of Ryder Seed Mews, said his brother, an expert in aquatic habitat management, conducted a survey of life below the surface of Verulamium Lake surface and found only worms thriving in the excrement.

He apparently discovered a two-feet deep layer of bird faeces and the shells of dead swan mussels, which are susceptible to pollutants, but no frogs, fish or newts. The survey warned that the condition of the water was bordering, “on being environmentally catastrophic” as it estimated there were several thousand litres of the sludge. Should that leak into the nearby River Ver, the report said, “the impact downstream could result in several kilometres of the river being heavily polluted.”

Mr Humphrey has called on St Albans district council to get rid of the “duck sewage storage tank in the middle of town”.

He explained that his brother, Richard Humphrey, the director of an environmental charity, was visiting from Scotland when he noticed how “disgusting” the lake was. He donned a wetsuit and spent three hours taking samples.

Mr Humphrey went on: “I supplied the council with a copy of his findings and urged them to take action. They have subsequently commissioned some chemical analysis and have concluded that there is no issue requiring their action.

“I think that this is a major mistake on the council’s part as they can offer no reason why the lake is bereft of life. While the council may be happy to nurture a duck sewage storage tank in the middle of town, I do not think that we should put up with it.”

Mr Humphrey suggested that the duck excrement be taken off the lake bed and vegetation introduced to help improve water quality.

But his comments have brought an angry response from the council’s environment portfolio holder Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles.

He maintained a recent survey and analysis of the lake completed for the council found it was not polluted.

Cllr Chichester-Miles added: “I’m really cross he is trying to stir things up. I’m fed up with people running down St Albans. I’m very, very angry about it.”

According to the survey conducted for the council by environmental consultants Symbio, there is no evidence that the lake poses a hazard as it is in a “reasonable condition”.

It added that faecal contamination from the very large resident and visiting waterfowl population and the River Ver inlet water had a “negligible” impact on the bacteriological water quality.

Silt, 49cm at its deepest, has accumulated at a low rate and had, “very low levels of contaminants”, Symbio found.

The study said that the fish population might be contributing to the nutrient loading of the lake through their consumption of food uneaten by several hundred birds noted during the survey.

Cllr Chichester-Miles dismissed Mr Humphrey’s suggestion of removing sediment, because of the danger that should the artificial membrane lining the lake floor crack, it would be a, “recipe for disaster.”

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Recently we, as a family (minus two of the kids), visited The Lodge RSPB reserve in Sandy, Bedfordshire. I had never been before, which is perhaps amiss of me as a birdwatcher as it is the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or RSPB and only 45 minutes drive from home.

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