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Pollution Fears Power the Sale of Ohio Hamlet to Energy Company

Environment: An power firm completes deal that will all but empty village. There are a few holdouts, but most are happy to get away from nearby plant.

September 25, 2002|From Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A power company finalized a deal Tuesday to buy most of an Ohio River village where many residents say they are happy to get away from what they say is a polluting coal plant.

The deal will all but empty Cheshire of its 221 residents, although about a dozen holdouts have refused to sell.

"All along, we've hoped that the ones who wanted to stay would be allowed to stay, and that's what will happen," Mayor Tom Reese said. "But the majority of people wanted to sell."

American Electric Power had coexisted with the tiny river hamlet for nearly 30 years. But a pollution control system at the plant periodically caused a blue haze of sulfuric acid to fall over Cheshire; people complained of burning eyes and nostrils and sores on their lips and tongues.

Residents hired attorneys to either file a lawsuit or broker a buyout. The company denies that emissions from the Gen. James M. Gavin Power Plant are harmful, and it says that the emissions are below federal and state regulations. Under the deal, residents waive their right to sue for any subsequent health problems.

The company said it agreed to the buyout because it wanted to address concerns and allow for expansion. Still, about a dozen people refuse to sell their land and homes.

Beulah "Boots" Hern, 82, said she won't move unless she gets $1 million for her riverfront property. She was offered $242,000.

"Just because I'm old doesn't mean I'm stupid," Hern said. "I don't feel that I'm being greedy. I just want what I think is fair."

The few businesses in Cheshire, mostly supported by coal plant employees, will also remain.

A small number of senior citizens who agreed to sell their homes will stay until their deaths, rent-free.

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