Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, August 04, 2021, Page 3, Image 3

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Covanta Marion incinerator
seeks new solid waste permit
Tracy Loew
Salem Statesman Journal
State environmental regulators are
asking for public comment on a pro-
posed new solid waste permit for Co-
vanta Marion, the garbage incinerator
in Brooks.
The facility burns most of Marion
County’s residential and commercial
waste, generating electricity that it sells
to Portland General Electric.
The proposed permit, drafted by the
state Department of Environmental
Quality, authorizes Covanta Marion to
continue to own and operate the site,
and regulates what type of waste it can
The new permit would replace an ex-
isting expiring one. It doesn't make any
changes to the type of waste the facility
may accept.
Covanta Marion, Oregon’s only
municipal waste incinerator, has been
controversial since it began operating
36 years ago. That controversy has in-
tensified in recent years.
In 2016, Marion County began allow-
ing Covanta to take as much as 25,000
tons per year of medical waste, contain-
ing plastic, from out of state and Cana-
da. The limit was changed to 18,000 tons
this year. Plastics can create dioxins and
other harmful pollutants when burned.
In 2019 and 2020, Covanta officials
warned the plant could close unless the
Oregon Legislature designated garbage
burning as renewable energy, allowing
Covanta to sell the power produced for a
higher rate. Bills authorizing the change
did not pass.
In June, a Statesman Journal
investigation revealed that the compa-
ny makes about $1 million per year tak-
ing out-of-state industrial waste.
And in July, Marion County ended its
three-decades-long partnership with
Covanta, giving up control over what
the facility burns.
Covanta Marion’s current solid waste
permit expires Aug. 30, but it will be al-
lowed to continue operating on it until a
new one is approved. It’s legal, and not
unusual, for companies in Oregon to op-
erate with expired permits, as long as
they filed their permit applications on
time, which Covanta did.
The proposed new permit runs
through July 30, 2031.
It allows the facility to accept munici-
pal solid waste, including infectious
waste, pharmaceutical waste, cannery
Continued from Page 1
cording to Oregon Health Authority.
Days after the outbreak began, the
facility shared in a news release that
87% of residents, but only 36% of staff,
were fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, other businesses can
mandate vaccines. Eugene winery King
Estate made headlines in April for re-
quiring their employees to vaccinate.
“It’s a real problem,” said Dennis
Westlind, a Portland lawyer who has
practiced employment law for 20 years.
“I represent a lot of health care em-
ployers and they’re at their wit’s end be-
cause they see the King Estate wineries
of the world mandating their employees
be vaccinated, and yet they can’t require
nurses and therapists, and other people
that have to have hands-on interactions
with patients to be vaccinated.”
“I was literally just sending an email
to a client saying, ‘Yeah, I’m sorry, it
makes no good policy sense. I can give
you a rationale and an explanation of
how it got to be this messed up, but I
cannot justify this on a policy level,’ ”
Westlind said.
Covanta employee Brad Berkey, an auxiliary operator, sorts garbage deposited by local trash haulers at Covanta Marion,
Inc. in Brooks, Ore. on Dec. 5. The Energy-from-Waste facility processes on average 550 tons per day of municipal solid
waste, undigested sewage sludge and
septic tank pumpings.
It also may accept specific hazardous
wastes from small generators; and nar-
cotics, illegal drugs, and equipment and
materials used in the production of illic-
it drugs seized by law enforcement offi-
Covanta spokeswoman Nicolle K. Ro-
bles said Covanta does not take hazard-
ous waste as a matter of course.
"If a situation arises where we are
asked to take this particular material by
a governing authority, it is reviewed and
approved on a case-by-case basis," she
Robles said Covanta takes drugs from
law enforcement across the country as a
public service.
"Pharmaceutical waste is a massive
problem with both social and environ-
mental consequences, which demands
sustainable, responsible solutions from
industry," she said. "Ten years ago, Co-
vanta recognized that the U.S. lacks a
safe, standardized way to dispose of un-
used medications and created this pro-
gram to help communities have a conve-
nient and safe way to dispose of their
medications to keep it out of the hands of
the most vulnerable and out of our water-
The permit allows Covanta to accept
electronic waste and radioactive waste for
storage, but not to be burned.
The permit doesn’t regulate the pollu-
tion emitted by the burner.
Covanta Marion has a separate air
quality permit that regulates air emis-
sions. It was renewed in 2020, with higher
limits for greenhouse gases, and small and
fine particulate matter.
And it has a water quality permit that
allows it to discharge about 88,000 gal-
lons per day of treated wastewater to the
Willamette River at milepost 71.7, near the
Wheatland Ferry. Covanta uses well wa-
ter for flushing built-up minerals from the
boiler and cooling tower.
The water quality permit expired
2009, but DEQ has allowed the company
to operate under those rules because Co-
vanta filed its application for a new per-
mit on time.
DEQ took public testimony on a pro-
posed new permit in 2016, which would
have lowered allowable chlorine and mer-
cury emissions, but did not take action on
it. At the time, DEQ officials said they
were waiting on possible federal rule
Comments on the proposed solid
waste permit must be received by 5 p.m.
Aug. 27, 2021. Send comments to DEQ
Permit Coordinator Denise Miller at or at 165 E.
Seventh Ave., Suite 100, Eugene OR
Tracy Loew is a reporter at the States-
man Journal. She can be reached at, 503-399-
6779 or on Twitter at @Tracy_Loew
ees of a health care facility, employees
of licensed health care providers, em-
ployees of clinical laboratories, firefight-
ers, law enforcement officers, correc-
tions officers, parole officers and proba-
tion officers.
“As you can imagine, that was super
well-intentioned and, in my humble
opinion, a really good idea. But then, in
the legislative process, somebody
raised a concern,” Westlind said. “They
threw an amendment on to the original
bill. So you get this crazy situation
where I can mandate my paralegal to go
get a vaccine, but a hospital can’t man-
date its nurses to get a vaccine.”
The relevant clause states that an
emergency response employee cannot
be required as a condition of work to be
immunized unless that immunization is
otherwise required by federal or state
law, rule or regulation.
While this pandemic has brought re-
newed attention to the law, Westlind
said it comes up with clients every year
when employers in health care settings
think about ways to prevent the spread
of the flu. Clients learn, just as Lane
County’s Luedtke did 10 years ago, they
can’t do anything more than implore
their employees to get immunized.
already challenges with staffing in
health care settings.
“The health care workforce ... is very
fragile right now,” Allen said.
PeaceHealth’s 5,400 local employees
are 79% vaccinated, and administrators
seem similarly disinterested in pushing
for policy change.
“While we are actively monitoring
the regulatory environment, we have no
current plans for mandatory COVID-19
vaccination and remain confident in our
ability to provide a safe care environ-
ment with the high rates of vaccination
that we have today,” Dr. Doug Koekkoek,
PeaceHealth’s chief physician execu-
tive, said in an emailed statement.
The Oregon Nursing Association also
boasts a high vaccination rate among
the nurses it represents, but its data
shows vaccination rates depend on the
kind of nursing: 79% of nurse practi-
tioners, 77% of nurse anesthetists, 74%
of registered nurses, 60% of licensed
practical nurses and 57% of certified
nursing assistants are vaccinated.
The association also does not want to
see a change in the law.
“ONA has a long history of promoting
and providing free vaccinations while
protecting the privacy of individuals’
health care records,” the association
said in an emailed statement. “We will
continue to discuss the most effective
ways to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are
accessible and equitable for all Orego-
On the other hand, Luedtke, with
Lane County, said he believes there’s
some advocacy to change the law.
“We’ve had COVID now for 18
months. We know where some of those
high-risk settings are, and it’s time to do
something to improve the safety in
those high-risk settings,” Luedtke said.
“We have vaccines that are really good.
It is another arrow in the quiver ... and
unfortunately that is not offered to us in
the state of Oregon for the health care
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-
Tatiana@register- or 541-521-7512, and follow
her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT.
Some not eager for a change
Letter of the law
The billwas introduced the same year
the number of reported AIDS cases in
the United States reached 100,000.
It proposed securing free access to
preventative immunization for people
who are licensed or certified to provide
health care under Oregon law, employ-
Last month, Oregon lawmakers
wrapped up their five-month session
and didn’t touch this issue.
Patrick Allen, the director of the Ore-
gon Health Authority, said at a recent
news conference the agency is “reluc-
tant to mandate” and create a statewide
vaccine requirement because there are
Salem Area
Caitlin Davis CFP® Chip Hutchings
Member SIPC
Continued from Page 1
Neither the state nor labor unions —
SEIU and AFSCME — yet know how
many state employees qualify for the
checks, nor how much the one-time
payments will cost the state.
Andrea Chiapella, communications
director for the Department of Adminis-
trative Services, said the money will be
coming out of agency budgets, not out
of money set aside for salaries.
Members of the labor bargaining
teams said securing hazard pay was one
of their top priorities.
Christina Sydenstricker Brown, a
member of AFSCME’s bargaining team,
said the payments show “respect” for
the employees who were not able to
avoid coronavirus risk by working from
Simply needing to work in-person
added a lot of anxiety for state employ-
ees and their families, she said.
“We kept Oregon going in a time of
crisis. When everyone wanted us to stay
home and stay healthy, we had to go to
work,” Sydenstricker Brown said.
Reporter Connor Radnovich covers
the Oregon Legislature and state gov-
ernment. Contact him at cradnovich@ or 503-399-
6864, or follow him on Twitter at
West | 503-585-1464
Lancaster | 503-585-4689
Jeff Davis
Tim Sparks
Mission | 503-363-0445
Commercial | 503-370-6159
Garry Falor CFP®
Tyson Wooters
West | 503-588-5426
South | 503-362-5439
Keizer Area
Mario Montiel
Keizer | 503-393-8166
Surrounding Area
Bridgette Justis
Tim Yount
Sublimity | 503-769-3180
Silverton | 503-873-2454
Kelly Denney
Dallas | 503-623-2146