The volunteer-initiated project to remove an infestation of floating pennywort from the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, a 14-mile length of canalised river running from Chelmsford to the sea, has succeeded in almost eradicating the species.
The council teamed up with local charity Chelmer Canal Trust in 2003 and helped raise around £80,000 from various bodies, including the Environment Agency, to pay for specialist teams and equipment to remove tonnes of the American species Hydrocotyle ranunculoides.
Landscape manager at the council Peter Spurrier said volunteers had been the backbone of the project. But when early removal methods failed and herbicides were banned, contracting specialists had proved the key.
"Our initial tearing and cutting methods generated small fragments that continued the spread," he said. "The grants helped fund a special boat for mechanical clearing, which made way for careful manual removal by volunteers."
Spurrier said volunteer teams were now controlling small recurrences and they hoped to eradicate the problem fully by targeting tributary streams along the canal. "This has been a great success. We can definitely be used as an example to other authorities that may have similar problems," he added.