Cheshire, once a vibrant small town in southeastern Ohio, is located on Ohio Route 7. It maintained its presence in spite of the dominating James M. Gavin American Electric Power (AEP) power plant just down the road. For many years, the plant co-existed with the community, providing quality jobs for the region and providing power for a region far larger than the Columbus Outerbelt even. Bad times were looming, however, and it was going to be a long and costly battle.

It started with blue sulfuric clouds that was emitted from the smokestacks at the power plant. Passing over the village, it caused a nasty and sooty residue on the structures and caused chemical fogs. To make matters worse, white droplets started falling from the sky, as if it was rain. A $200 million system was installed to curb emissions of smog-producing nitrogen oxides, however, it caused some serious and inadvertent byproducts. These effects included blue sulfuric clouds that caused skin and eye irritation, along with headaches, sore throats and white burn marks on the lips, tongue and inside the mouth. It was intended to protect people who suffer from respiratory illnesses that were aggravated by smog.

“People here are very worried and scared. We feel like they are experimenting on us.”
– Cheshire Mayor Tom Reese

AEP discontinued continuous use of these new controls soon after, but plan on turning them back on occasionally to test potential fixes. After these problems surfaced, parents of schoolchildren started worrying about evacuation plans in the case of a leak at the power plant. What was found was startling: in the event of an leak from one of the tanks at the AEP power plant, children had no more than six minutes to evacuate.

In August of 2000, the EPA stated that the James Gavin AEP power plant was in violation of the Clean Air Act. Studies were conducted with the conclusion that the pollution in the air in the nearby community was five times higher than normal to cuase an asthma attack.

In the spring of 2002, AEP started purchasing property from the home and business owners of Cheshire. AEP continued to mostly ignore the EPA’s investigations, except for the fact they experimented with a switch to a solid form of ammonia. In March of 2002, the EPA required the Gavin AEP power plant to burn a lower sulfur coal and undergo stringent testing standards.

In order to go around this, AEP proposed to purchase the entire village of Cheshire in less than a month. The company purchased the town for $20 million, more than the $6 million estimated price it would have required if not for the fact that it had to cover legal and punitive costs.

[stag_toggle style=”normal” title=”Sources” state=”closed”]
  1. “EPA, Ohio EPA Reach Agreement with AEP Gavin Plant.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency . 21 May 2004. 3 June 2005 Article.
  2. Farwell, Brad. Cheshire, Ohio . 3 June 2005 Article.
  3. Hawthorne, Michael. “Village still fears plant’s acid haze.” Columbus Dispatch 11 Oct. 2001. 3 June 2005 Article.
  4. Henderson, Andy. Cheshire, Ohio. 3 June 2005 Article.
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