Thick ‘scum’ on drain is driving wildlife away

John Barrett is worried by "scum" on a drain near his home. SG0309815-110TW
John Barrett is worried by "scum" on a drain near his home. SG0309815-110TW
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A pensioner has lashed out at officials for failing to clear a thick “scum” on the Little Holland Drain near his home in Whaplode St Catherine.

John Barrett and wife Patricia, both 76, love to feed moorhens at the waterside.

But Mr Barrett, of Cranesgate North, says wildlife – birds and fish – are no longer to be seen at the spot because there’s “half-a-mile of sludge” covering the water.

He says it’s so thick that soft drinks cans are standing on top of it and he’s been passed from pillar to post for the last five to six weeks as he’s tried to get the Environment Agency and the internal drainage board to clear the drain.

“It is really terrible and we are really worried,” he said.

Karl Vines, a district engineer with South Holland Internal Drainage Board (IDB), says the scum is a weed called Azolla.

He said there’s too little water in the system to “flush it through” and the IDB tried to get hold of Azolla Weevils – insects that eat the weed – but the entire supply in Britain had dried up.

Mr Vines said the weed will die off naturally in colder weather, but it’s possible the IDB will have it cleared by machines – although the weed is turning red and coming to the end of its life-cycle.