I've been kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one, and now it has: Covanta, which runs the waste-to-energy plant in Brooks, Oregon, blames Marion County - which runs the waste program - while Marion County's pointing the finger back at Covana. In any case, County Commissioners met today in an emergency session to put the skids on their waste-treatment program in light of recent revelations concerning the program and its operations at the Covana Marion facility.
In a nutshell, the waste disposal plant opened in 1987, and it incinerates 186,000 tons of of stuff per year, turning into ash and generating some 13 MW of electricity a day in the process. That power's purchased by PGE and dumped into the Salem-area power grids. Obviously, Salem and Marion County don't generate enough waste on their own, so more is imported from elsewhere.
What's got folks so wound up is the fact that included amongst the medical waste trucked in from various hospitals and clinics are aborted and miscarried fetuses. In particular, they've been trucking them down from British Columbia, where the practice of burning fetuses in cogeneration facilities is prohibited.
“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.”
Bud Waterman, a former temp worker at Covanta Marion, Inc., said two to three times a week, 53-foot tractor trailers carrying biohazards dropped off loads at the facility in Brooks.
On more than one occasion, Waterman said the contents of the truck spilled out of their containers.
“It would make you sick, especially if you had to clean it up or have to pull a box off the trailer,” said Waterman.
Covanta responded to the claims early Thursday morning 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.”
Yeah, right. It's been going on for years, but now that the cat's out of the bag, both sides are going to get all self-righteous and indignant. They're shocked, shocked, I tell you. Especially now that it's making national news.
Marion County's been pretty proud of their waste-to-energy program until now; touting it as clean&renewable&sustainable and all that other stuff. But now it has suddenly been determined that maybe burning miscarried and aborted babies isn't an especially popular source of renewable energy.