From its beginnings in the late 18th century until the middle of the 20th century, Cheshire flourished. By the 1950s, however, mining declined and the railroad wasn’t as popular. To some the Kyger Creek Power Plant’s arrival and then Gavin’s signaled the dawn of a new era: more jobs and more resources meant progress. But to many others, Gavin became an unwanted menace and ultimately the source of the town’s demise.
   
Early Years
Plant Improvements Yield Village Damages  
The Blue Plume
The Buyout
   
Early Years 
1975 At a cost of $650 million, the General James M. Gavin Power Plant starts up its 2600-megawatt coal-fired generating units. One smokestack, over 1000 feet tall, towers over the plant and the village and discharges byproducts such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and mercury high up into the atmosphere. Gavin never employed a great percentage of Cheshire residents; in 2002, only one village resident worked for the plant. Several others worked for neighboring plants, including Kyger, or American Electric Power (AEP).
   
1984
Northeastern states and environmental groups protest against Gavin’s high sulfur emissions that cause acid rain. The tall smokestack allows emissions to travel via the jet stream as far as New England and Canada.
To raise awareness of this issue, Green Peace activists, disguised as painters, jump off Gavin's smokestack. Subsequently, AEP replaces the tall smokestack at Gavin with two shorter stacks, each 830 feet tall. Now emissions fall in the village, closer to home.
   
  ©GREENPEACE/MEYER
   
Plant Improvements Yield Village Damages 
AEP's overview of pollution control devices at the Gavin power plant.
   
1994-1995 To comply with the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, AEP installs flue gas desulfurization systems (FGD) or Scrubbers at the Gavin plant at the price of $700 million. The scrubbers are designed to reduce the sulfur dioxide emissions that result from coal combustion. AEP reports that the scrubbers reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by at least 90%. The scrubbers also allow Gavin to burn the high sulfur coal that is abundant in Ohio and West Virginia. But the devices come at a cost to Cheshire. The villagers complain of loud noises, dirt and damaging fly ash. Over the years, Gavin issues coupons for free car washes and pays property damages to some.
   
1998 AEP builds Low NOx Burners at the Gavin plant to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide released to air.
   
2000 AEP announces its plans to update the Gavin power plant with selective catalytic reduction units (SCRs), which are designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, a main contributor to ozone. During the SCR process, ammonia is injected into the plant’s exhaust gases, which ultimately converts nitrogen oxide into “harmless” nitrogen and water. Villagers marshal together to fight the AEP's plan to use the potentially life-threatening anhydrous ammonia in the SCR process. Ultimately, AEP is persuaded by the village and environmental advocates and announces it will use relatively safe urea pellets as its ammonia source.
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The Blue Plume
Spring & Summer 2001 AEP completes the first selective catalytic reduction unit (SCRs) at Gavin, which will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 85%. But this newest pollution control device causes more concern among Cheshire residents. The SCRs emit an unexpected byproduct: sulfuric acid aerosol or sulfur trioxide.
This becomes particularly daunting on hot and humid days, when these emissions cover the town in a thick, blue haze referred to by residents as the sinister "blue plume."
"Blue Plume", 2001

Residents in town complain to the Ohio EPA about sore throats, sore eyes and difficulties breathing. After village requests, the Ohio EPA sets up a device in the Village Hall to monitor the sulfur emissions of the plant. The monitor serves to record the sulfur dioxide levels. Residents are concerned that the Ohio EPA is not pressuring Gavin to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions, which the monitor clearly shows are elevated at certain times.

   
Fall 2001 Frustrated by the continuing sulfuric acid emissions, as well as the unrelenting dust and fly ash, the village council and individual residents hire a law group to represent them in pursuing property and possible health damages against Gavin’s owner American Electric Power (AEP). The village hopes that legal pressure will convince Gavin to reduce its emissions, even if the plant is in compliance with the existing legal limits of emissions.
   
February 2002 The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an agency of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, publishes results of a Health Consultation, which is initiated to determine if a public health hazard exists from the sulfuric acid emissions at Gavin. The agency concludes that the sulfuric acid emissions pose a short-term risk to some residents, particularly those with asthma. The agency is not able to draw any conclusions concerning long-term risks.
 
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The Buyout
April 16, 2002 To the surprise of many, AEP announces its plans to buy the village of Cheshire for $20 million. See The Transaction for more details.
   
September 24, 2002 After months of waiting, AEP announces that the buyout is final. It will take until the beginning of 2003 before the actual settlement agreements between the individual residents and AEP are signed. After each family signs the agreement, they are allowed several months to relocate.
   
Winter 2003 Families begin to move from Cheshire. Most families do not move far away. Some can still see Gavin’s plume from their new homes.
   
February 4, 2003 The Cheshire residents who have not yet moved vote to keep the village’s incorporated status, which means that Cheshire will remain a legal entity. The residents who will still live in Cheshire, about 10 of them, will still have such services as police protection, streetlights and maintenance.
   
Spring 2003 AEP begins bulldozing vacant homes and buildings. See The Consequences section for updates on people and the town.
 
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