ACME — Phase one of the Acme site clean up process has started, but Department of Environmental Quality officials cannot estimate at this time when the first phase will be completed.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Targeted Brownfields Assessment in 2017 determined significant volumes of asbestos, large quantities of lead-based paint, drums with unknown contents and other various metals, petroleum hydrocarbons and carcinogens currently contaminate the property now fully owned by SCCD, an earlier article of The Sheridan Press reported. Contamination was identified in surface soils, groundwater, sediments and building materials throughout the site.

Four men in hazardous material suits and protective gear started this week on removing potentially hazardous contents out of the building and securing and moving the barrels in one location before testing the materials.

Phase one will not be covered by the Environmental Protection Agency Assessment Grant, but clean up has been partially covered by the Sheridan-Johnson Community Foundation Endowment Fund and state funds.

DEQ environmental project manager Jaymee Binion said the first phase will help stabilize the former Acme Power Plant location site to receive a certificate of completion.

Brownfields are defined as a property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse that may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. Several companies and individuals have owned the land throughout history, so the uncertainty of the contents requires careful and special removal.

“The main thing is to dispose of them properly,” Binion said. “You have to know what is in them so you can know where to dispose of them.”

Loren Ruttinger of WWC Engineering is helping clean up the area and sample barrels. He said they use tools to sample and measure the materials in the barrels.

“We then take those physical samples and send them to a laboratory,” Ruttinger said.

The team expects results within a few weeks. Once results arrive, they will be able to find the appropriate location to remove and dispose of the materials.

The total estimated time for phases one and two of stabilization and removal is undetermined.

“In total, it’s kind of difficult to say how long it will all take at this point,” Binion said. “Once we get farther along in the process, we’ll have a better understanding of that.”

Sheridan County Conservation District board chair Susan Holmes said the area has been owned by numerous people, from Montana-Dakota Utilities to a limited liability company with several individual parties involved. Residents were living on the plot of land when it was acquired by SCCD, but they were required to move out.

Once hazardous materials are accounted for and removed, SCCD will determine other items in and around the building that may be salvageable or worth a resale price. Until then, any unauthorized person is prohibited from entering past the fenced-in area on the site, as materials may be hazardous and it is trespassing on private land owned by SCCD.

Continued updates for the project will be available by DEQ and SCCD through the project website at