PAWNEE — Criminal investigators are in the preliminary stages of determining how medical waste was dumped illegally in the Arkansas River. The Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the waste after fishermen near Ralston reported they had found used syringes and vials in the Arkansas River. Tuesday, cleanup crews found numerous biohazard sharps containers.
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality sent criminal investigators to collect evidence Tuesday, DEQ spokeswoman Erin Hatfield said. DEQ is a state agency responsible for regulating medical waste. However, Hatfield said it is not involved in medical waste transportation.
Normally, medical waste goes to a facility in Stroud, she said. The waste is autoclaved and sent to a landfill. “What was found was not the proper way to dispose of it,” Hatfield said. Investigators found used hypodermic needles and vials which contained body fluids.
A Tulsa news station reported one hospital, St. John’s in Tulsa, is cooperating with the investigation as some medication bottles were discovered with patient’s names, dates and hospital provider listed on it. St. John’s has issued the statement: “St. John is cooperating with law enforcement regarding an ongoing criminal investigation and we are not able to comment further on this matter. St. John is actively evaluating relevant security breach and safety issues to ensure that a safe environment is maintained for all.”
Megan Sando is a reporter for the Stillwater News Press