A human foot was found by someone walking dogs near Knott Landfill earlier this month, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. It’s sparking concern that someone dumped medical waste in the landfill, which is not allowed.
DCSO said the person was with several dogs on Jan. 21 in a field across SE 27th Street from the landfill, south of High Desert Middle School, when one of the dogs returned with the foot.
“This has not happened in the 16 1/2 years that I’ve been at the sheriff’s office. There are occasions where human remains are found, but generally speaking they’re highly decomposed,” Sgt. Jason Wall with Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said. “Through the investigation, we were able to determine the partial foot was surgically amputated and possibly disposed of at the Knott Landfill.”
However, the landfill is not permitted to take medical waste.
“By our code, we’re not allowed to. It’s illegal to. All medical waste actually has to be handled outside of the landfill sector. Usually, they have to be sterilized and/or incinerated,” Director of Deschutes Solid Waste Tim Brownell said. “If we were to have any suspected concerns of body parts or any other biological waste we’re not aware of, we would actually cease operations and cordon off the area and call in the authorities.”
Brownell says there are a strict set of protocols in disposing of medical waste.
“Body parts, for example, I believe are collected, gathered, and then shipped off to the mid-west for incineration,” Brownell said. “There’s quite a protocol around this. For medical waste to not go through that system and potentially end up at Knott Landfill, that would be of concern. We’ll be looking into where in the system that may have broken down.”
Sgt. Wall says the investigation is ongoing. He said DCSO, the State Medical Examiners Office, the Deschutes County Medical Examiner’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office will try to find the person who the foot belonged to.
As for how the foot ended up there, Brownell says Solid Waste will look at where the disposal protocol was broken. It could be as simple as someone carelessly throwing the material into a garbage container as opposed to a bio-hazard container.