News has surfaced stating that Missouri-based Environmental Restoration LLC, the company responsible for the spill of millions of gallons of waste into Cement Creek, was required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or a “secrecy agreement” that kept citizens in the dark as contaminated water flowed through the Animas River.
“The statement of work includes a standard requirement that the contractor shall not publish or otherwise release, distribute, or disclose any work product generated under the contract without obtaining EPA’s express advance written approval,” an EPA spokeswoman told The Daily Caller. “This does not require either an NDA or confidentiality agreement be signed by individual employees.”
To put it simply, the EPA “controls the flow of information by circumventing federal regulations that dictate when an agency can use non-disclosure clauses by including secrecy agreements in documents related to, but separate from contracts.”
While NDAs are often necessary to protect important government secrets, it can also be used by authorities to disclaim accountability, to the detriment of the public.
As a result, important details about the Aug. 5, 2015, environmental disaster near Silverton, Colorado, were hidden from citizens. We wouldn’t even know the identity of the firm if not for an anonymous leak by an EPA official.
“The spill occurred while an EPA official and company personnel were working at the site and sent a flood of mining waste, including toxic materials like cadmium, lead and arsenic, into the water sources for people living in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, as well as the Navajo Nation,” narrated The Daily Caller.
According to Open the Books founder Adam Andrzejewski, “the EPA is forestalling transparency regarding a toxic spill that threatened the regional drinking supply of the American Southwest. The EPA isn’t answering our requests on a timely basis and the contractor is relying on their non-disclosure agreement to remain silent.”
What’s even more alarming is that the Environmental Restoration describes itself on its website as “the largest provider of emergency response services” to the agency.
“Each of our EPA contracts … has specific language requiring ER’s confidentiality[PDF] on all site matters,” Environmental Restoration President and Managing Partner Dennis Greaney said on the site. “ER honors our contractual confidentiality obligations to all of our clients, and cannot provide any additional information.”
To put it simply, what Greaney means is: If the EPA says we keep quiet, then we keep quiet — the well-being of the public notwithstanding.