Cheshire, Ohio: An American Coal Story in 3 Acts

75 min. Bullfrog Films. 2017. $350. $95 (rental). ISBN 1941545904.
Gr 8 Up—Filmed over a period of 10 years, filmmaker Eve Morgenstern's documentary opens on a porch where an elderly woman recounts how it used to be to live in the picturesque small town of Cheshire, OH, before the coal power plant polluted the area. Black-and-white footage of happier times when families thrived provides a nostalgic backdrop and contrast to the spewing stacks of American Electric Power's James M. Gavin Power Plant. Only a handful of residents remain. Most of the townspeople sold their homes for approximately three times the value. Acceptance of the buyout, totaling $20 million, meant signing an agreement not to sue AEP. What seemed like a pretty good deal at the time didn't take into account the high number of former residents who would later suffer from a variety of cancers said to have resulted from inhaling sulfuric acid that sometimes engulfed the town, leaving burns on their skin and breathing difficulties. When AEP settled with the group Citizens Against Pollution in 2006, it was ordered to reduce emissions, though 15 million tons of pollution is reportedly still dumped into the atmosphere annually. Aerial shots of the town at the beginning and end are stunning. A haunting soundtrack accentuates the mood.
VERDICT This affecting film will stay with viewers as it informs them about the dangers of coal burning power plants. For middle and high school students studying environmental science and most public libraries.

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