Marion County has temporarily halted its medical waste program after hearing reports that fetal tissue has been shipped from Canada to a Brooks facility, where it's incinerated to provide electricity to local residents.

The B.C. Catholic in British Columbia reported on April 21 that a Marion County facility, Covanta Waste-to-Energy Facility in Brooks, was receiving biomedical waste, including human tissue, such as surgically removed cancerous tissue, amputated limbs and fetal tissue. The information for the story was based on anonymous reports from the B.C. Health Ministry. The story also reported that a Covanta spokesperson confirmed the plant does receive medical waste from British Columbia. The facility has accepted medical waste since at least 2007, when a Willamette Live story reported that 800 tons of medical waste are burned there per year.

As a result of the story, Marion County Board of Commissioners temporarily halted the acceptance of boxed medical waste at the facility Wednesday.

"We provide an important service to the people of this state and it would be a travesty if this program is jeopardized due to this finding," said Commission chair Sam Brentano. "We thought our ordinance excluded this type of material at the waste-to-energy facility. We will take immediate action to ensure a process is developed to prohibit human tissue from future deliveries."

The board held an emergency meeting to discuss the issue further Thursday morning.

Oregon Right to Life executive director Gayle Attenberry also issued a statement Wednesday: “As horrified as I am to hear of the bodies of Canada’s smallest citizens being burned to create electricity for our homes, I am not surprised. When we do not respect the unborn babies’ right to life, what is stopping us from using their bodies for our own gain, whether that be burning them for electricity or destroying them for embryonic stem cell research?”

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