SHERIDAN — In the early 1890s, a set of little coal mine towns were developed along the Tongue River when the Burlington Railroad arrived in Sheridan. The Acme Power Plant was built in 1910 and still sits at the bank of the Tongue River. The coal-fired power plant that was operated until 1976. After shutting its doors, it’s reported that the power plant was used for unregistered activities such as a car crushing business and battery recycling.
The plant that was once provided power to local coal mines like Acme, Monarch, Kooi and the city of Sheridan has now been purchased by the Sheridan County Conservation District, the Sheridan Community Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy as of 2017. The project started in early 2015 when the SCCD acquired the property as a government entity. They were eligible for various grant programs to facilitate the assessment and cleanup of the site said Susan Holmes, a member of the SCCD board. The assessment process several years ago and is contracted to continue for the next year and a half.
“We’ve been working with an EPA program called ‘Targeted Brownfields Program,’ and through that we submitted an application they call phase one and phase two assessments — and those were critical because phase one needed to be done,” said Carrie Rogaczewski, Sheridan County Conservation District manager.
Since then, the SCCD became eligible for additional funds and have continued to evaluate the environmental quality. Sixty drums were removed from the property that contained various oils and chemicals of concern that once sat at the bank of the river. Multiple tractor trailers of asbestos materials and buckets of debris were removed at the last assessment. Additional assessments will determine if the building is stable enough to go inside and begin cleaning up, Rogaczewski said.
“Those initial assessments that are done through that targeted program of VPAs which really just kind of identify that there’s contamination here, these are the contaminants we’re finding,” Holmes said. “But they really don’t go into the details of the extent of the contamination, how intense it is and what steps will be needed to address it so that’s what where we will be going this summer.”
“It’s not a full clean up by any stretch, but it does help us make the site safer a little bit for these next phases of assessment and then just helped prevent that additional contamination,” Rogaczewski said.
The SCCD will receive an EPA assessment grant in collaboration with Department of Water Quality, and contractors from both organizations will begin detailed assessments later this year. DEQ will be testing water wells and completing extensive soil examinations to determine a true starting place for the extensive cleanup.
“It’s a three-year grant that’ll include the development of some cleanup alternatives depending on levels of contamination that will help us understand if the site will be safe to be used solely for recreation purposes and what we have to do to make it suitable for that,” Rogaczewski said.
Acme Power Plant Restoration project updates can be found at www.acmeprojectwyoming.org.