The Marion County Board of Commissioners voted to halt a medical waste program after reports surfaced accusing the waste facility of disposing human tissue, including aborted fetuses.
The board said they took immediate action in response to an article published in the British Columbia Catholic Herald newspaper that claimed "biomedical waste" was being disposed at the Covanta Marion, Inc. Energy-from-Waste facility in Brooks that contained "human tissue" and "fetal tissue."
"We are outraged and disgusted that this material could be included in medical waste received at the facility," said Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson in a written statement. "We did not know this practice was occurring until today. We are taking immediate action and initiating discussions with Covanta Marion to make certain that this type of medical waste is not accepted in the future.""
Covanta responded to the claims by placing blame on Marion County and said the company is halting the program until answers are given.
"The medical waste program at the Marion County Resource Recovery Facility is County run and managed," Covanta said in a statement. "Marion County contracts for and delivers
medical waste to the facility and Covanta has no responsibility for the program. 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."
The facility in Marion County opened in 1987, according to Convanta-Marion, Inc.'s website. It's a pioneer partnership that not only accepts tons of solid waste but also non-hazardous
biomedical waste from across the state and country.
The waste the facility receives is then burned at temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, boiling water and generating steam that drives turbines, which generate electrical power, according to Marion County's website.
Bud Waterman, a former temp worker at Covanta Marion, said he believes certified contractors have been carrying fetuses from British Columbia to Oregon, where state statutes allow fetuses to be disposed.
While the current statutes include fetuses in the disposal of medical waste, Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano said the county's board will hold an emergency meeting to ban the practice.
"I don't know that you can know just like I should have known, but I didn't," said Brentano. "I'm sorry I didn’t know that this included fetal tissue, but now that I do know, believe me things [will] change."
Waterman said he believes fetuses have been incinerated at the Marion County facility for years and used for energy, a practice that the Canadian government will not do.
"They knew it, they had to. I don't see how they could not know it," said Waterman.