Agriculture Street Landfill Opening and Operations

Stop 1 of 7 on the Gordon Plaza tour.

Agriculture Street Landfill (ASL) opened in 1909 to accommodate trash produced by New Orleanians. ASL was situated on 95 acres of undeveloped swampland and bounded by Abundance Street, Industry Street, and the tracks of the Northeastern Railroad Company. The new landfill received trash from half of the city’s residents via train cars. [1] In the early years of operation trash deposits were burned in open fires or buried underground. [2] By 1912, disinfectants were “freely used” to treat the stenches and infestations permeating from the landfill. [3] An incinerator was erected in 1914. [4]

As waste production in the city increased throughout the early 20th century, ASL continued to accommodate trash from half of New Orleans, excluding Algiers. [5] Several projects were undertaken to increase the amount of trash ASL could accommodate. [6] As trash mounted at ASL, the number of residents living in the neighborhood surrounding the dump increased significantly.

Limitations of space, fresh dirt, and funds seemed to have encouraged officials to enforce less than the bare minimum of regulations governing ASL procedures. New sanitary regulations in the mid-twentieth century were seen as mere suggestions by city officials. City Sanitation Director George M. Rittiner stated that “while the recommended specifications suggest approximately two feet of earth cover to bring to final grade [...] we are using cover materials from areas where garbage and trash has been fully decomposed for five years.” Rittiner concluded that it was “only necessary to use six- to 10- inch cover.” [7]

Today, the site of ASL is home to Gordon Plaza, a neighborhood developed by the city, targeted at low-income first-time home buyers.