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Colorado Man Sentenced for Violating the Clean Water Act

Release Date: 09/22/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Dave Ryan, 202-564-4355 /

(9/22/05) Michael Eugene Cervi of Roggen, Colo., was sentenced on Sept. 9 in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act by falsifying underground injection well monitoring reports. The court ordered Cervi to serve five months in prison followed by five months of home detention, pay $233,000 in restitution, pay a $30,000 fine and perform 50 hours of community service. Cervi owned Envirocycle, a business which recycled and disposed of wastewater from oil drilling operations. Disposal was done through injection into a deep well near LaSalle, Colo. The wastewater was a brine which contained a number of toxic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. In the spring of 2001, Envirocycle employees found contamination in the well's leak detection system. Instead of fixing the problem, the leak detection system was sealed off and a false sampling point was created. Clean water was then poured into the false sampling point, and falsified samples were submitted to the Weld County Health Department. In August 2002, Cervi sold Envirocycle to Conquest Oil which discovered the altered leak detection system in December 2002. Conquest repaired the leak detection system and began a clean-up of contamination around the well. To date, the repair and clean-up has cost approximately $233,000. Two Envirocycle employees, Rande Bernal and James Bernal, were also convicted in this case and are awaiting sentencing. Allowing toxic chemicals to leak from injection wells can create a health hazard for both humans and wildlife. The case was investigated by the Denver Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with assistance from the Colorado Attorney General's Office and EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Denver.