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Originally published November 24 2015

To cover up Gold King Mine spill, EPA forced contractor to sign secrecy document to hide details from the public

by Daniel Barker

(NaturalNews) It's been three months since the Gold King Mine spill in which millions of gallons of toxic waste were dumped into the Animas River, turning the water yellow and poisoning a stretch of the river that included two states and the Navajo Nation.

The disaster happened during a botched EPA-led cleanup operation, despite warnings that such an incident might occur. The details are still as murky as the poisoned river was, due to the agency's policy of secrecy.

It turns out that the EPA routinely requires contractors to sign non-disclosure agreements – a practice which, in theory, protects "sensitive information" and legitimate government secrets, but which also protects the agency from scrutiny.

The agency is notorious for avoiding scrutiny – remember how Lisa Jackson, former EPA administrator, used an alternate email address to hide facts about the agency's operations? The EPA seems determined to remain as non-transparent as possible, and who can really blame them, considering how often they screw things up?

In this case, the screw-up was monumental, and impossible to cover up. When nearly the entire river turned bright yellow, a non-disclosure agreement wasn't enough to hide the fact that something had gone terribly wrong.

The non-disclosure agreement, however, does make it very difficult to get at the real facts regarding the cause of the spill. Three months after the incident, one of the few things that is known is that a Missouri-based company called Environmental Restoration LLC was under contract with the EPA to perform the cleanup operation.

And even that fact would not have been reported if it weren't for a leak from an anonymous EPA insider which was published by the Wall Street Journal.

The scale of the accident is such that it has not been easily swept under the rug. Although the EPA claims that the river is no longer contaminated, many experts are skeptical. The waste contained lead and arsenic – among other toxins – and no one can be certain what the long-term environmental effects will be.

The fight for transparency

There are those who are unwilling to allow the EPA to simply brush off the scrutiny. One of those fighting to uncover the truth is Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Open The Books, an organization dedicated to revealing the details of government spending.

After all, these are our tax dollars being spent – shouldn't the government be expected to inform the public about how and where all that money is spent? The motto of Open The Books is: "Every dime. Online. In Real Time." The organization has published vast amounts of data regarding state and federal spending.

Andrzejewski said in a Daily Caller interview:

"With few exemptions, the public's business should be done publicly, not privately. After a major spill, the EPA's worst practices are coming to light — shrouding the public business in privacy."

Andrzejewski accuses the EPA of "forestalling transparency" regarding the King Gold Mine spill. Since the accident occurred, he has been seeking to obtain relevant documents concerning the details of what went wrong, but the agency has been slow to review and release any information.

"The EPA isn't answering our requests on a timely basis," he said, "and the contractor is relying on their non-disclosure agreement to remain silent."

It seems rather ironic when an agency dedicated to protecting the environment – in name, at least – hires a company named Environmental Restoration, which manages to cause one of the biggest environmental disasters in the nation's history, and then continues to cover up the details.

What makes it even more ironic is the fact that, as Andrzejewski put it: "the 'most transparent' administration in history is signing their largest contractors to hush agreements."


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