Trump Supporter Who Poisoned Groundwater Places Trump Billboards on I76

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The plains roll on for hundreds of miles  under blank blue skies near Roggen, Colorado. Sage, scrub grass, fracking tanks, and a few cattle dot the vast landscape.  Roggen itself is a ghost of its former prosperity – the town consists of a grain elevator, a telephone co-op,  two churches, a convenience store, and a post office.

Yet, Roggen boasts two new roadside attractions: gigantic “Trump for President” billboards facing west and east, placed to catch the eyes of all travelers along I76.

I wanted to find out who felt strongly enough about Mr. Trump’s candidacy to build, paint, and place these monumental political advertisements in this desolate area. I investigated, and found a family saga rooted in the heyday of Colorado political journalism, in the gas and oil boom years, including rodeo circuit stardom and family tragedy, and the criminal indictment and sentencing of the landowner, Mr. Mike Cervi, for violating the Safe Water Act by injecting petroleum wastes into the High Plains / Ogalalla Aquifer from 2001 – 2002.

Cervi’s Journal – the founding Cervi business

Eugene Cervi produced and edited Cervi’s Rocky Mountain Business Journal in Denver from 1954 until his death in 1970.   Cervi’s Journal later became the Denver Business Journal. “Gene” and his daughter, editor Cle Symons Cervi, were both inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame.   Gene Cervi was twice Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, although he was critical of JFK. Later in his career, the “Journal” became more conservative and more pro-business in viewpoint.

The Cervi Rodeo Dynasty

photo of Mike Cervi, Sr

Mike Cervi, Sr., inducted into ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2003

The Cervis raised their family in Denver, and attended the Denver Stock shows. Mike Cervi, Sr., born in 1936, became fascinated with the rodeo clowns. When the family inherited a ranch in Sterling, Mike realized his dream of building a cattle and rodeo empire. Today, the 80 year old Mike, his wife, Nancy, and the entire Cervi family are deeply involved in the rodeo business. Michael Cervi, Jr, (1971-2001) . was a promising young rodeo roping star, but died tragically in an airplane crash in 2001.

Cervis: major Weld County landowners

Michael Cervi, Sr. was the second largest landowner in Weld County in 2001, owning 28,000 acres.  There are still 200 property records under the name of Cervi in Weld County, according to the County Assessor’s office. This includes records under the names of Mike Cervi, Cervi Enterprises, LLC, and various other Cervi family members. Cervi Enterprises, LLC, the umbrella company for 7 land,  rodeo, cattle, and gas and oil extraction businesses, owns the parcels next to I76, which feature the Trump signs. Mike Cervi, Sr. is the CEO of Cervi Enterprises.

These maps, showing Cervi Enterprises ownership of the land by I76, are  from pages 108 and 109 of the Weld County Ownership Mapbook.

Cervi’s 2001-02 violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act

Weld County has been producing oil and gas for almost 50 years.  When Mike Cervi, Sr., moved to Weld County, he put in oil wells on his property. There are still 27 oil or gas wells on Cervi land. But, in 2001 – 2002, at least one of his wells southeast of LaSalle, CO was leaking into  groundwater (the Ogallala / High Plains aquifer). This was a problem which Mike Cervi, Sr “solved” by faking the data on the monitoring of the well. Per  Water Webster:

Colorado rancher sentenced to federal prison for violating clean water law

Cervi, who pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, owned a business called Envirocycle, according to court documents, which had a state permit to inject wastewater from oil drilling into a deep underground aquifer through a commercial injection well. Cervi’s plea agreement said he had his employees hide a leak from the well by sealing off the leaky well from the monitoring system, creating a new fake sampling point, periodically pouring clean water in the sampling tube, submitting the clean samples to the Weld County Health Department, and making false log entries about the amount of fluid in the well. By doing so, the well continued leaking contaminants into the soil. Rocky Mountain News_ 9/10/05

The Greeley Tribune also reported on the violation, guilty plea and Cervi’s sentence. Cervi ultimately paid over $250,000 for cleanup costs, and served five months in Federal prison in 2005. The EPA  commented on the case, “ Allowing toxic chemicals to leak from injection wells can create a health hazard for both humans and wildlife.”

Why am I drilling into old Weld County history and injecting it into the current political debate?

        • The Trump billboards are enormous, obnoxious, and they misrepresent the will of Coloradans, who rejected Trump in the primary. They may not comply with Federal law, which stipulates that candidate billboards  should state who or what paid for the advertising. Cervi’s Trump billboards do not contain this disclaimer statement.
        • Oil and gas wells in Weld County are still leaking into the air and water. It is still not healthy for humans and wildlife. Once aquifer water is contaminated, it is gone forever – can’t be used for agriculture or drinking. I want to remind drillers that this is against the law.
        • Candidate Trump is vehemently anti-regulation as it pertains to protecting the natural environment. He has said that he would cut the EPA:

          TRUMP: Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations.Q: Who’s going to protect the environment?

          TRUMP: We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses

        • Mike Cervi, Sr. and his family are Trump supporters. That is their right in America. They also have the right to pay for and to put up Trump billboards, although they should state who paid for them.
        • I have the right to point out that a disdain for environmental regulation and accountability, which led Mike Cervi to contaminate and to cover up the poisoning of groundwater in Weld County, is a Trump value most people in Weld County do not share.

Mr. Cervi, you do not speak for Weld County when you Trumpet your candidate on giant billboards –  And you do not speak for me.

About kwtree

Retired teacher, aspiring writer, doting grandma. Nosy, curious, persistent.

12 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JohnInDenver says:

    Thorough. But is there any example of the FEC going after individuals who put up billboards?

    • Conserv. Head Banger says:

      The question to be asked is do these billboards violate the state's highway beautification law?  As an example, one driving north of Ft. Collins on I-25 will see virtually no billboards until the Wyoming state line. Some years ago, a rancher living along I-25 in southern Colorado lost a court case and had to remove large billboards he had put up on his private property, but next to the interstate.

      So, here is something for mamajama to investigate.

      • mamajama55 says:

        I did look into the highway beautification law a little bit. Colorado is a "bonus state", meaning that in exchange for voluntarily complying with Federal highway beautification law, it gets a little bit more money each year for highways.

        But the I76 corridor is not considered to be a "scenic byway" – as I said, rolling hills, cows, fracking, cornfields, little towns, sagebrush.  So the Fed beautification law doesn't apply. The Feds do defer to the states on specific applications.

        Up in the Pawnee Grasslands, for example, which the Feds auctioned off drilling rights for $2 / acre to oil and gas bidders, there is a scenic byway. Unfortunately, the highway beautification law doesn't seem to apply to a plethora of fracking rigs and tanks – just signs and billboards.

        So Colorado may have more specifics. Looking into it. Thanks.

    • mamajama55 says:

      There was one example – a GW Bush supporter who put up billboards without disclaimers, and was fined. But the FEC's new vice-chair, McGahn, a McConnell appointee, tried to reverse it.

      Consensus seems to be that the FEC has been hobbled in its mission by Citizens United and partisan blocking of enforcement by the Republican members of the Commission.

      There is a procedure to file an FEC complaint. I'd have to think long and hard about filing one, and check to make sure I wouldn't be retaliated against through the agencies of the various district school boards, since I couldn't do it anonymously. It is true that everyone knows everyone with 1-2 degrees of separation up here.

      The most plausible scenario for Cervi to take down or modify his billboards would be if his neighbors, or if customers of his many businesses complain. Trump is not popular; he won only 19% of the preference poll in Weld County. If Cervi started getting pushback from people whose opinions he values (presumably not minewink)

      , then he might modify or remove the billboards.



  2. Duke Cox says:

    "We can leave a little bit"…That tells you about all you need to know about Donald Trump.

    • Conserv. Head Banger says:

      One of the few things I like about Trump is that he seems to be a supporter of national parks and public lands. At the same time, he is the ultimate flip-flopper and goes whichever way the wind is blowing, or what his whim of the moment is. He could easily end lining up with the special interest land grabbers.

      • BlueCat says:

        There are other things (you said one of a few) that you like about Trump?surprise

      • mamajama55 says:

        Some corrections, since this diary might be on the front page a day or two yet:

        1. I did try to contact the Cervi family for comment, at home and at Cervi Enterprises. They did not return my calls.

        2. Nancy Cervi's FB page, in case anyone wants to see how pro-Trump and anti-Hillary she is:

        3. It's Cervi Enterprises, Inc., not Cervi Enterprises, LLC.

        4. The Cervis have donated extensively to Republican candidates over the years. I didn’t put in all the TRACER info.

        5.Northeast Colorado is occasionally beautiful – see sunsets, sunrises, storms, just about anything that happens in the sky. Irrigation machinery has nice lines, too. Calves are cute. People are nice to other white people, at least, even if they tend to believe everything they hear on Fox News.

      • mamajama55 says:

        CHB, here is Trump's op-ed about the BLM, published last year in the Reno Gazette.

        I read it, and I just see dog-whistles against immigration, against regulation and the Federal government.

        Is there something conservationist or pro-parks in here that I'm missing?

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    As my good friend Moderatus would say, "So, the guy's always had this thing for clowns — what's your point?" . . .

  4. AZgirl48 says:

    Thank you Mr. Cervi for proudly displaying your support for Mr. Trump!  I smile every time I see it.  

    For the author of this biased piece, I am so confused.  What does an unfortunate event from 15 years ago have to do with supporting a Presidential candidate?  I personally feel your disgraceful attempt at slander feeble at best. 

    I sure hope there's no skeletons in your closet that someone uses to hurt you in the public eye.  Glass house.  You get the picture.


    Again, thank you for the billboard Mr. Cervi.  If I see you I will thank you in person.  You are obviously brave to voice your American opinion in a very hostile, unfriendly, slanted, rude environment.

    • mamajama55 says:

      AZgirl, I have a different reaction than you do when I see Mr. Cervi's Trump billboards. It involves a middle finger. I''ve noticed that I'm not the only I76 driver saluting Trump this way. We seem to drive all kinds of cars, and come from all walks of life, but somehow we often feel compelled to greet the billboards in this same way. We'll all feel a little sad when our opportunity for venting is taken down after Trump loses the November election.

      Drive through the little town of LaSalle sometime. Watch the working families picnicking in the deep shade of the town park. Then write your rationalization for why it was fine for Cervi to poison LaSalle's groundwater with oil toxins for 3 years. Mike Cervi got caught. Anadarko and Noble usually don't get caught, or if they do, they pay a small (for them) fine, instead of anyone doing jail time like Mike Cervi did. That's the connection to Trump – Trump would eliminate the EPA and all regulation. Corporations would be free to poison air and water without even the small consequences they rarely receive now. I'll take your veiled threats with a grain of salt- Cervi could know exactly who I am had he had the guts to answer my polite questions. See you on I76, as we each react to the Trump signs in our own ways.

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