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Portland, Ore. • An Oregon county commission has given final approval to an order to stop a company from receiving medical waste until procedures are in place to prevent the burning of fetal material to generate power.
While taking the action Thursday, commissioners said they were horrified and disgusted to learn that Covanta Marion was burning abortion waste to generate electricity.
Commissioners Sam Brentano and Janet Carlson made the decision at an emergency hearing. Both strongly oppose abortion rights.
The facility is owned and operated by Covanta in a partnership with the county. It processes 550 tons of municipal solid waste a day, with only a small portion coming from medical sources.
Covanta Marion did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. The firm did not have a representative at the hearing.
Kristy Anderson, a British Columbia Health Ministry spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that regional health authorities there have a contract with a company that sends biomedical waste, such as fetal tissue, cancerous tissue and amputated limbs, to Oregon, where it's incinerated in the waste-energy plant.
The B.C. Catholic, a Vancouver-based newspaper, identified the plant as Covanta Marion, based in Brooks, Ore. When contacted by The AP on Wednesday, a Covanta Marion representative said he did not know if fetal tissue was included in shipments from Canada or elsewhere.
The facility is owned and operated by Covanta in a partnership with Marion County. 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.
Commissioners did not say why they believe medical waste shipped to the plant should be free of fetal tissue.
Since they have no idea what's been arriving in the sealed shipments, the commissioners decided to temporarily suspend all medical waste, Kelley 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.