St Albans duck deaths won’t be stopped by dredging the lake, says district councillor

A film of green algae covers parts of Verulamium lake

A film of green algae covers parts of Verulamium lake - Credit: Archant

Following a string of duck deaths at Verulamium Park the councillor responsible for the lake has insisted that dredging it is not the answer.

A notice from St Albans council regarding the problems for wildfowl at Verulamium lake

A notice from St Albans council regarding the problems for wildfowl at Verulamium lake - Credit: Archant

Growing concerns for the safety of ducks and other animals ensued after a high number of feathered fatalities were spotted around Verulamium Park over the past two months.

The cause of death has been confirmed by the council as Avian Botulism, a paralytic disease caused by ingestion of a toxin produced by the bacteria clostridium botulinum.

Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles, St Albans council’s portfolio holder for environment, said they had established that one of the causes of the disease was overfeeding the ducks, especially with the wrong food.

If ducks are fed bread the duck droppings become toxic, and the more people feed the ducks, the more the lake becomes overpopulated, which leads to more toxic duck droppings.

Daniel Chichester-Miles insists he has the best interests of the lake at heart

Daniel Chichester-Miles insists he has the best interests of the lake at heart - Credit: Archant

He said: “It can be encouraged by over feeding and feeding of the wrong food.

“Anywhere you have ducks you are going to have a lot of guano [duck droppings] and that puts an amount of ammonia into the water.”


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Since the duck deaths came to light, some Herts Advertiser readers and members of the community have suggested dredging the lake, but Cllr Chichester-Miles insists this is not feasible and won’t be effective.

He said: “When I first took up this role in 2011 they told me that dredging the lake was not an option. We simply don’t have the budget for it.

A film of green algae covers parts of Verulamium lake

A film of green algae covers parts of Verulamium lake - Credit: Archant

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“I have grown up with the Verulamium Lake and I absolutely love the park, I don’t want to see it destroyed. That’s a real concern for me.”

Cllr Chichester-Miles explained that dredging the lake could cost a minimum of around £200,000, but there’s no budget for contingencies.

The lake has not been dredged since its creation in 1906 and dredging it could cause the lake to crack if left in sunlight for an extended period.

It might also expose asbestos, or break the membrane of the lake. He said a similar operation by a council in Sunderland ended up costing their council £5 million, and St Albans district council did not have the money to cover that expense.

Cllr Chichester-Miles said that over population of ducks at Verulamium lake is a problem

Cllr Chichester-Miles said that over population of ducks at Verulamium lake is a problem - Credit: Archant

He said: “I don’t want to be the councillor who broke the lake. It could be out of use if the council don’t have the money to fix it.”

He added: “If we were to dredge the lake the water would go quite rapidly back to the way it was.”

The council cleans the lake through the use of a sluice gate and the River Ver but have to balance this so not to pollute the river itself.

Cllr Chichester-Miles said that the council was looking into more ways to improve the quality of the water and bird population.

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