BROOKS, Ore -- Marion County commissioners ordered an incinerator to stop accepting boxed medical waste from British Columbia to generate electricity after learning it includes tissue from aborted fetuses.
The waste also includes amputated limbs and cancerous tissue, said British Columbia Health Ministry spokeswoman Kristy Anderson. The ministry has a contract with a firm that sends the waste to Oregon.
The county has been using the Covanta facility in Brooks to turn waste into energy for years. The county uses municipal waste from homes and businesses, plus medical waste, as incinerator fuel to produce power.
An article published in the B.C. Catholic newspaper earlier this week suggested that fetal tissue from British Columbia was included in the medical waste.
Marion County Chair Sam Brentano says if that is the case it cannot be tolerated. He immediately stopped the burning of all medical waste while the county looks into the report.
It's a practice that some find troubling.
Brooks resident Jim Worst said the whole idea makes his stomach turn.
Makes you throw up, Worst said. Makes you pretty sick.
At an emergency commission meeting Thursday morning, commissioners made a formal vote to halt the practice for now. All medical waste shipments have been halted and new procedures will be drawn up specifically to remove fetal tissue.
Brentano and Janet Carlson made the decision. Both strongly oppose abortion rights.
Bottom line: I m not going to facilitate abortion, said Brentano. It s the ultimate disrespect to innocence.
The burner company Covanta Marion told KGW Wednesday night that while they burn the waste, it's the county that decides what trash gets incinerated.
Marion County contracts for and delivers medical waste to the facility and Covanta has no responsibility for the program, the company said. Covanta is shocked by these allegations and is discontinuing the receipt of this waste stream until we have been assured by the county that this alleged material is not being delivered to the facility.
According to its website, it processes 550 tons per day of municipal solid waste, generating up to 13 megawatts of energy sold to Portland General Electric.
Marion County estimates that the facility processes about 700 tons of in-county medical waste each year and about 1,200 tons from elsewhere, making it a small percentage of the total waste burned. Out-of-town medical waste is charged a higher fee.
County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley said medical waste has been included in the program for some time, but the commissioners never had any indication that fetal tissue might be included.
We learned that today, she said.
Covanta Marion is believed to be the only plant generating energy from waste in Oregon.
The Environmental Protection Agency says medical waste from hospitals is generally excluded from the municipal solid waste used to generate electricity.