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Company denies using the remains of aborted babies to generate electricity at Oregon Waste-to-Energy plant

by | May 1, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Sam Brentano, chairman of the Marion, Oregon, board of commissioners

Sam Brentano, chairman of the Marion, Oregon, board of commissioners

The denial could not get more categorical, or the situation more convoluted. A vice president of the company that is at the center of allegations that the remains of aborted babies were being burned at a Waste-to-Energy facility to generate electricity in Oregon, flatly denies the charge.

Jill Stueck told the Portland Tribune, “It’s not just inaccurate; it’s completely false.” Stueck is vice president of marketing and communications for Covanta Energy Corporation, the company that owns and operates the Marion County Waste-to-Energy Facility plant in Brooks, Oregon.

To Stueck, the explanation is simple. The newspaper that first ran the story containing the allegations assumed that “fetal tissue” refers to babies who have been aborted or miscarried.

Stueck told Tyler Francke

“’fetal tissue’ refers to other biological material associated with birth, such as umbilical cords and placentas — not fetuses. Fetuses would be classified as ‘human remains’ and are in a different category.

“’This is a mixing-together of terms that mean completely different things,’ she said. ‘We’re not burning babies.’”

Stueck also told Francke that after she heard the charges, she contacted the Brampton, Ontario-based Stericycle, the third-party contractor used by British Columbia health authorities to delivers the biomedical waste to the Marion County Waste-to-Energy Facility, in Brooks (also known as Marion County Resource Recovery Facility).

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Stericycle representatives “assured me there are no fetuses in this waste stream,” she said.

But Stueck also noted that the biomedical waste arrives in sealed containers and that employees are not allowed to open them.

The original story, written by Steve Weatherbe for the Vancouver-based B.C. Catholic, reported that an unnamed member of the communications branch of the B.C. Health Ministry emailed the newspaper

“that ‘biomedical waste,’ including ‘human tissue, such as surgically removed cancerous tissue, amputated limbs, and fetal tissue,’ is ‘disposed of through appropriate contracted providers.’

“It added, ‘The ministry understands that some is transferred to Oregon. There it is incinerated in a waste-to-energy plant.’”

Evidently based on that email, Weatherbe lead his story with “The remains of British Columbia’s aborted and miscarried children are ending up in an Oregon waste-to-power plant, likely mixed with everyday trash, incinerated to provide electricity to the people of Marion County.”

But there are further complications.

KOIN Channel Six quoted a former temp worker at Covanta Marion. According to KOIN, Bud Waterman

“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.”

In the same story published by KOIN, Waterman went further. He said the bodies of fetuses have not only been burned for energy at the Marion County facility for years, but also that “They knew it, they had to. I don’t see how they could not know it.”

When the story first broke, reaction was swift from Marion County Commissioners which temporarily halted accepting all medical waste at the facility.

“We are outraged and disgusted that this material could be included in medical waste received at the facility,” Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson said. “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.”

Sam Brentano, chairman of the board of commissioners, seconded Carlson’s remarks. “We thought our ordinance excluded this type of material at the waste-to-energy facility,” he said. “We will take immediate action to ensure a process is developed to prohibit human tissue from future deliveries.”

According to Portland Tribune reporter Francke, a spokeswoman for the board said commissioners were not opposed “to the processing of umbilical cords or placentas.” Jolene Kelly “said the county wants to ensure that no contractor could interpret ‘fetal tissue’ as encompassing human fetuses.

“(The commissioners) just want to make sure the ordinance is changed so it can’t be interpreted that way,” Kelly told Francke.

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