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TRANSPORTATION OF WASTE MATERIAL.
COMMITTEE ON RIVERS AND HARBORS,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Wednesday, July 26, 1916. The committee met at 10.30 o'clock a. m., Hon. Stephen M. Sparkman (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order. This meeting was called for the purpose of holding hearings on the following bill:
[H. R. 16893, Sixty-fourth Congress, first session.] A BILL To probibit the use of harbors, rivers, canals, and so forth, owned, operated, or
maintained by the United States to vessels for the transportation of waste material collected from cities contiguous thereto.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of War to prohibit the use of all harbors, rivers, canals, or other similar works of navigation that now are, or that hereafter may be, owned, operated, or maintained by the United States, to scows or other vessels or tows of every description engaged in the transportation of every accumulation of animal, fruit, or vegetable food waste, liquid or otherwise, collected from cities lying contiguous to any harbor, river, or canal and other similar works of navigation. And every person or corporation violating this rule shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof in any district court of the United States within whose territorial jurisdiction such offense may have been committed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $5,000 for each offense, or by imprisonment, in the case of a natural person, not exceeding five years, in the discretion of the court. This act to take effect immediately.
STATEMENT OF HON. DANIEL J. RIORDAN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
Mr. RIORDAN. Mr. Chairman, this bill, H. R. 16893, was introduced by me on the 10th of July at the request of a committee of people of Staten Island, which is a part of my district. Mr. P. G. Ullman, jr., is here and has been selected as the chairman of the committee of gentlemen who are here from Staten Island, and I am going to ask yourself and the committee to recognize him and put him in charge of whatever time the proponents of the bill may have allotted to them.
STATEMENT OF MR. PERCIVAL G. ULLMAN, JR., 45 BROADWAY,
NEW YORK CITY.
Mr. ULLMAN. Mr. Chairman, this bill, H. R. 16893, is to prohibit the use of harbors, rivers, canals, etc., owned, operated, or maintained by the United States to vessels for the transportation of waste material collected from cities contiguous thereto. I do not expect to speak at length with reference to this particular bill and the phraseology of it. I simply call your attention to the fact that this bill is designed to protect every city lying contiguous to any harbor, river, or canal in the United States. The very work of the River and Harbor Committee is protected by this bill; that is, the appropriations for the development of waterways and harbors and the maintenance of the same.
We contend that under a new process that no city should have the right to obstruct navigable waterways. We hope to show that the process is so advanced that the disposal of garbage—and that is what this bill specifically relates to—may be disposed of within the city limits of any city without offense to any of the citizens of those communities within the city limits. We propose to show that by the evidence not only of the health commissioner of New York City-and I will speak of New York City later as illustrating this point in question, because I am better acquainted with that location, as I came from there—but we will show by expert testimony through gentlemen we have with us to-day that the process to be adopted by the city of New York has been in operation in other cities. Therefore we contend that the water highways of this country are the heritage of its citizens; that its use should be protected for the transportation of legitimate commerce. That is about all I have to say with reference to the bill itself.
In illustrating the various points with reference to this question of garbage disposal, I must necessarily take up the most extravagant case governing this subject, and that is the case of New York City. Let us take, for instance, the present conditions in New York City with reference to the disposai of garbage and the transportation of the same. New York City to-day has access to the North River; it has access to the East River; the lower New York Bay and the channels leading to Barren Island. The city of New York has recently adpoted a new plan, a new process, for the disposal of garbage. They have selected a site midway in the Staten Island Sound. I say in the Staten Island Sound, to be accurate it is on the Fresh Kills River, which is practically an arm of the Staten Island Sound. It necessarily follows that while these existing contracts are in force, and will be in force for at least four years, at Barren Island, the city of New York will cause to be erected a garbage disposal plant at the site I have mentioned in Staten Island Sound, and the transportation of garbage in scows will be added to the waterways and channels already monopolized, to a large extent, by the city of New York.
The CHAIRMAN. Where is Barren Island ?
Mr. ULLMAN. Yes, sir: under an old process of disposal, sir; and I understand a very offensive one. This is a new one and inoffensive.
Therefore the narrow waterways of the Kill Van Kull and the Staten Island Sound, separating the State of New York from the State of New Jersey, and also the waterways of the lower bay and Raritan Bay, will be added to the waterways and channels already utilized by the street cleaning department of the city of New York. We then have this condition, that every waterway and every channel within the harbor of New York and when I speak of the harbor I mean the rivers tributary thereto—may be at any time utilized by the street cleaning department of the city of New York for the transportation of garbage.
The CHAIRMAN. Why should they not utilize them, if it is necessary to do so?
Mr. ULLMAN. We claim it is not necessary, sir, by their own statement; that this new process which they have at their disposal, they may erect a plant within the heart of New York City and dispose of their garbage in that manner.
The CHAIRMAN. I want to call your attention to the fact that we have nothing to do with any feature except that of navigation. Now, anything that would interfere with the navigable uses of any one or all of those channels is something of which we would have jurisdiction. I can understand that if the use of that channel or any of those channels should be abused so as to crowd out other kinds of legitimate transportation business, Congress might have some authority in the matter of preventing such abuse; or if the use of the channel for the purpose of transporting garbage and such things as that should become a nuisance so as to drive off legitimate traffic, we might have jurisdiction to act and it might become our duty to so act. I am only making this statement in order that you may direct your remarks to those features and anything bearing upon them.
Mr. ULLMAN. Yes, sir; I have that in mind and I had intended to confine myself to that. As I said a minute ago, the city of New York controls all the waterways and channels within the harbor excepting only Ambrose Channel, where special restrictions apply preventing vessels carrying tows from using the channel, under the river and harbor act of March 4, 1913. Special stress is laid on this provision here and the reasons are stated, to the effect that it is essential to the safe use of said channel at all times, and especially in hazy weather, that all craft therein shall operate under their own power at all times.
The CHAIRMAN. What are you quoting from, Mr. Ullman?
Mr. ULLMAN. I was quoting from the order issued by Assistant Secretary of War Breckinridge on April 17, 1914, in relation to the power conferred upon the Secretary of War by the river and harbor act of March 4, 1913.
The CHAIRMAN. Let all of that go into the record.
REGULATIONS RESTRICTIXG THE USE OF AMBROSE CHANNEL, NEW YORK HARBOR.
The river and harbor act of June 13, 1902, contains the following provision :
* SEC. 11. That section four of the river and harbor act of August eighteenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, be, and is hereby, amended so as to read as follows:
** Sec. 4. That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of War to prescribe such rules and regulations for the use, administration, and navigation of any or all canals and similar works of navigation that now are, or that hereafter may be, owned, operated, or maintained by the United States as in his judgment the public necessity may require; and he is also authorized to prescribe regulations
to govern the speed and movement of vessels and other water craft in any public navigable channel which has been improved under authority of Congress, whenever, in his judgment, such regulations are necessary to protect such improved channels from injury, or to prevent interference with the operations of the United States in improving navigable waters or injury to any plant that may be employed in such operations. Such rules and regulations shall be posted in conspicuous and appropriate places for the information of the public; and every person and every corporation which shall violate such rules and regula. tions shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof in any district court of the United States within whose territorial jurisdiction such offense may have been committed shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $500, or by imprisonment (in the case of a natural person) not exceeding sis months, in the discretion of the court.'”
And the river and harbor act of March 4, 1913, contains the following provision :
“ Improving New York Harbor, New York: For maintenance, including Ambrose Channel, $200,000, and the Secretary of War is hereby authorized to make such rules and regulations for the navigation of Ambrose Channel after the completion of its improvement as he may deem necessary or expedient to insure its safe use in all kinds of weather, night and day, for all vessels under control and running under their own power, and to this end he may, in his discretion, forbid its use to tows of any description and to sailing vessels.”
Whereas Ambrose Channel, New York Harbor, has been excavated to its full
project depth of 40 feet and width of 2,000 feet; and Whereas the regulations heretofore issued, restricting the use of said channel
during the progress of the improvement, become inoperative upon completion
of the work of improvement; and Whereas the large fleet of steam vessels engaged in the foreign and coastwise
trade of New York Harbor are enabled by the ample dimensions of the said channel to enter and leave the port at all stages of the tide and in nearly all kinds of weather, with a corresponding reduction in the time of voyage from
pier to pier; and Whereas it is essential to the safe use of said channel at all times, and espe
cially in hazy weather, that all craft therein shall operate under their own
power and be at all times under perfect control; and Whereas the other entrance channels near Sandy Hook afford adequate facili
ties for the safe navigation of sailing vessels and tows: Now, therefore, in pursuance of the authority conveyed by the aforesaid acts of Congress, the following regulations are prescribed to govern the movement of vessels in Ambrose Channel, New York Harbor :
1. The use of Ambrose Channel (formerly and before improvement calleil East Channel) is hereby restricted to navigation by vessels under efficient control with their own motive power, and not having barges or other vessels or floats in tow. Sailing vessels and vessels carrying tows are not permitted to use this channel.
2. Vessels permitted to use Ambrose Channel under section 1 of these regulations must proceed through the channel at a reasonable speed such as not to endanger other vessels and not to interfere with any work which may become necessary in maintaining, surveying, or buoying the channel; and they must not anchor in the channel, except in cases of emergency, such as fog or accident, which would render progress unsafe or impossible.
3. These regulations are not to be construed as prohibiting any necessary use of the channel by any Government boats while on Government duty, nor in emergencies by pilot boats, whether steam or sail, nor by police boats.
4. These regulations shall remain in force until modified or rescinded, and shall supplant all prior regulations governing the use of Ambrose Channel, which are hereby revoked.
Assistant Secretary of War. WAR DEPARTMENT, April 17, 1914. Official copy :
S. W. ROESSLER,
Colonel, Corps of Engineers,
Mr. Ullman. Now, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I contend that the inland waterways and the harbor of New York City should require the same protection with reference to safe navigation that the Ambrose Channel now has. The conditions in the harbor of New York are more aggravating than they are with reference to traffic in the Ambrose Channel. It is true that all commerce of the port largely travels through the Ambrose Channel, but it is also true that there is more activity inside of the harbor of New York, within the Narrows, than there is in the Ambrose Channel; that we have no channel 2,000 feet wide, to my knowledge, and 40 feet deep, such as the Ambrose Channel. Our channels vary in size. Take it in the case of the Staten Island Sound and Arthur Kill, from 100 feet upward, and there the congestion is great and growing at all times. Take it in the North River, with its 70,000,000 ferry passengers annually and its 58,000,000 tons of commerce; take the East River, with its 17,000,000 passengers traveling annually across that stream, and its 46,000,000 tons of commerce; take the line from the Battery to Staten Island, with its 15,000,000 passengers annually traveling across the lanes of coastwise and trans-Atlantic travel within the harbor; take the case of the Staten Island Sound, where the passenger lines operate at frequent intervals, and the number of passengers carried is 3,000,000 annually and the commerce amounted to 32,000,000 tons per annum in 1914. Those are the conditions which confront us and bring us here before you to tell you that the city of New York has no right to transport garbage in scows through these waterways.
The CHAIRMAN. I do not think we have had any complaint as yet from the city of New York or from any of the boats or transportation lines, complaining that there is liable to be any nuisance or any obstruction of those channels by reason of the transportation of this garbage and refuse matter.
Mr. FREAR. May I ask, for the enlightenment of myself and perhaps other members of the committee, will the gentleman address himself to this map and tell us what relation this map has to the bill? I do not quite understand it, and I presume that is true of other members of the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. If you have the bill
Mr. FREAR (interposing). We have the bill and the map, but I do not see the connection between the two. The gentleman refers to different bodies of water, and I was wondering if they are apparent on this map.
Mr. ULLMAN. I spoke about Staten Island Sound and Kill Van Kull.
Mr. FREAR. Yes; I see that.
Mr. ULLMAN. And, of course, the Fresh Kill River is practically an arm of Staten Island Sound upon which this site is located, and all have relative connection one with the other. Anything that affects the waterways of Staten Island Sound necessarily affect the Fresh Kill River.
Mr. FREAR. Where is this with reference to New York City ?
Mr. FREAR. And the objection is to having the use of these waterways for the purposes mentioned in the bill; is that right?