Fence put up to stop people sinking into silt at Verulamium Lake

The temporary fencing around Verulamium Lake. Picture: Matt Adams

The temporary fencing around Verulamium Lake. Picture: Matt Adams - Credit: Archant

Temporary fencing has been put up around parts of Verulamium Lake in St Albans to discourage people from stepping on the silt and falling in.

Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018.

Verulamium Lake, July 16 2018. - Credit: Archant

St Albans council put up the fencing this week after the dry weather caused lake waters to recede, exposing a silty surface which could be dangerous to pedestrians.

Maria Stagg, the council’s deputy head of community services, said: “The recent dry and hot weather is causing the water in the lake to recede and silt has become visible and certain points around the edge.

“Although the silt is drying out on the surface and, in places, vegetation is growing, beneath it is saturated with water and very soft.

“We have put up temporary fencing in locations where the silt is visible as a precautionary measure to prevent people and animals stepping into it.”

The surface of the lake has already proven to be deceptively dangerous, after a boy fell in and became submerged in mud up to his nose.

In April, 10-year-old Oscar was playing by the lake with his friends when he fell in, at the opposite end from where the fencing now stands. While the surface appeared to be shallow water, he sank through a layer of quicksand-like mud and had to be pulled out by passersby.

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Oscar’s mum Shirani expressed concerns about the cleanliness of the lake, as her son’s clothes were filthy and smelly and had to be thrown away after he fell in.

The condition of the lake has led to birds dying from what is believed to be avian botulism. Early in July, there was a spate of about 70 birds dying in a ten day period, which was reported to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the RSPSCA.

In summer 2015 more than 100 ducks were killed during a widespread outbreak of the disease in the park, after silt built up in the water and became an incubator for dangerous bacteria.

Cllr Frances Leonard, the council’s portfolio holder for the environment, has assured the public that the exact cause of the deaths is unknown, and even if the council finds avian botulism it is not harmful to humans.

The muck in the lake is formed by a combination of duck faeces, leaves and natural material which is not washed away by the poor water flow from the River Ver.

In March the council announced a multimillion pound project to revitalise the river and improve the condition of the artificial lakes by 2024. The river will be narrowed to improve flow, the gravel bed cleared of silt and the concrete banks replaced by soil, grasses and plants.