A bill to require Covanta Marion, Oregon’s last remaining municipal waste incinerator, to do continuous monitoring of its most toxic and hazardous emissions and cap the amount of medical waste it can burn, was signed into law by Governor Kotek on Friday.
As has been well documented, the plastic waste that is being burned at Covanta causes high levels of cancer-causing and highly toxic pollutants like dioxins, which can cause skin, blood, liver and reproductive problems. It also releases heavy metals and mercury, a neurotoxin that impairs brain function. Exposure to these emissions are dangerous for the people who live and work in proximity to the facility, and for our air, water and climate.
The burning of medical waste is of particular concern because it is much more toxic than municipal waste, containing a high percentage of heavy metals, plastics, and polyvinyl chloride. According to the latest DEQ records, Covanta burned over 16,300 tons of medical waste alone in 2022. Senate Bill 488 will give the state of Oregon a better understanding of the highly hazardous pollutants that result from the burning of these plastics, industrial waste and other materials and caps how much can be burned every year.
“This victory is a result of local activists from Salem, Woodburn and Brooks standing up to this major polluter to protect the health of their communities,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, state director with Environment Oregon. “We’re glad that the Oregon legislature took action to better protect these communities from the harmful impacts of the toxic emissions coming out of Oregon’s last remaining waste incinerator. Big thanks to Senator Deb Patterson and Lisa Arkin from Beyond Toxics for their leadership, and to Governor Kotek for signing it into law.”