March 5, 2018  (Web Review)

Cheshire, Ohio

(2017) 75 min. DVD: $350. Bullfrog Films ( PPR. SDH captioned. ISBN: 1-941545-90-4.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Filmmaker Eve Morgenstern’s documentary offers a devastating study of a small town that was physically, emotionally, and financially devastated by the presence of a coal-fired power plant. Located along the Ohio River, the tiny town of Cheshire was a friendly community that felt like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. However, the neighbor from hell arrived when construction began on the Gavin Power Plant in the early 1970s. Emissions from the plant created a seemingly endless stream of white smoke that spoiled the pristine air, and by the year 2000 the townspeople became ill after a blue plume escaped from a smokestack and covered Cheshire. American Electric Power, the utility running the plant, made a pre-emptive legal strike by agreeing to pay out $20 million upfront in a settlement that also involved the utility purchasing the homes of residents who wanted to sell and move away. While many Cheshire residents were eager to accept the buyout, others were not and stubbornly remained in their homes, with the polluting smokestacks still belching out harmful emissions. Combining archival footage with insightful interviews from pro- and anti-buyout homeowners, this riveting and disturbing portrait of environmental wreckage in a quiet corner of rural America is highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)