"Resolved, moreover, that the Mayor shall have a notice inserted in the newspapers to announce to the public that the contract of two chalands or flatboats shall be adjudged to the lowest bidder at the Mayoralty office, on the day and time the Mayor shall fix; that said chalands shall be constructed according to the model to be furnished the Contractor by the Mayor and a Committee of the City Council under the supervision of the Mayor and said Council -- that they shall be placed on the river at the places to be designated by the Surveyor, conformably to the resolution taken in this respect by the City Council, and that the person who shall construct said chalands or boats shall pass a contract with the Mayor, to receive the garbage or filth of the City and Faubourgs which shall be carried thereto by the tumbrels for that purpose in order to be thrown, by means of a device of said chalands or boats in the current of the river, at a distance from the bank to be designated by the Mayor ..."

[Ordinances and resolutions of the Conseil de Ville, Session of May 23, 1818]

Plan for a garbage boat, C. Crozet, August, 1836. This boat may have operated from Crozet's wharf near Toulouse Street.
[City Surveyor's Office Records]
Although the drawing above depicts a later garbage boat than the one authorized by the City Council in 1818, the principle was the same--the city disposed of its solid wastes by dumping them in the Mississippi. This practice continued in one form or another throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century. In later years the city established nuisance wharves where the garbage boats took on their nasty cargo for the short voyage out into the river channel where the swift currents of the Mississippi served the purpose later taken over by incinerators and landfills. Unfortunately, however, many cities, towns and villages upriver from New Orleans also disposed of their garbage through similar means. Those deposits no doubt managed to find their way into our water supply.

It is interesting to note that as late as the turn of the twentieth century city officials were still defending the disposal of garbage via the Mississippi. In their biennial report for 1898-1899 the Board of Health argued that:

To dump the garbage of a large city into a running stream from which is also derived the water supply of the city, might seem, at first glance, a rather crude and imperfect, as well as unsanitary, method of getting rid of the city's waste; but when it is remembered that the Mississippi River is at this point about a half mile wide, from fifty to one hundred feet deep, with an average current of three miles per hour, as much as one million five hundred thousand cubic feet of water passing a given point during every second at the stage of high water, we may readily imagine how little influence a boat-load or two of garbage per day can have upon such an immense body of water in constant motion. While cremation is undoubtedly superior to all other methods of garbage disposal, the present system properly safeguarded should not be objectionable; improvements should begin at the collection end of the system and reach cremation through this avenue of approach.

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iw/we 5/1998