Overhearing a conversation concerning a potentially immoral and illegal act concerning public safety, one is put into an awkward situation of making hard choices directly affecting safety and livelihood of many individuals. It is of utmost importance to consider both the immediate and long term ramifications of any action you may take in such a precarious situation. In the situation of overhearing the Vice President of Production ask the environmental consultant advice on how to dump toxic waste into a holding pond, it becomes apparent there are both civil and criminal issues to consider. Reaching the appropriate decision of what action to take is not an easy decision.
Environmental ethics relies heavily on the business's commitment to minimizing environmental harm. As the assistant to the Vice President (VP) you have an ethical obligation to your boss, the company, and the community. As an employee, you must decide how to handle the information you overhear the Vice President discussing with the companies environmental consultant.
Breaches in ethics regarding the conversation you overhear vary in severity. The first matter to consider would be whether or not what you overhear the VP and consultant discuss is fact or hearsay. The conversation between the Vice President and consultant regarding dumping into the holding pond has the potential to cause the environment harm. There are basically two ways to handle the conversation overheard.
As an employee you must decide whether to go internally with the information you overheard. Should you go to the President of the company? You risk the fact that the President may be fully aware of the conversation between the Vice President and the consultant. If you feel this may be the case, you should consider whistleblowing.
Going straight to the appropriate state or federal agency with the information you have heard.