Decades ago, coal-burning industrial plants filled the air with soot along this stretch of the Ohio River Valley. Now some of the industry is gone, and the air here is clean.
But just south of town, at a bend of the river, a smokestack nearly as tall as the Empire State Building is suspected of causing problems for people hundreds of miles away.
The Environmental Protection Agency, possibly by the end of the week, is expected to demand tougher pollution controls in 25 states east of the Mississippi. The goal is to reduce interstate pollution; the primary target will be the tall stacks of more than 40 coal-burning power plants from Illinois to West Virginia.
Two plants south of Moundsville and a third 25 miles upriver belong to the Ohio-based American Electric Power Co. Together, last year, they released 91,000 tons of a smog-causing chemical - more than the emissions from power plants in all of New England and New Jersey combined.
The stacks were designed specifically to keep from polluting the Ohio River Valley, and on that front they have succeeded.
Moundsville resident Gloria Stiles, a server at Bob’s Lunch, remembers when local industries created so much pollution she couldn’t keep her car clean. Now, with most of the industries gone, the air meets federal standards and she and other local residents don’t pay much attention to the power plant.
But others do, saying the wind-borne emissions cause them problems.
“Our air quality is greatly affected by Midwest polluters, something over which we have no control,” complains Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, echoing views of governors from Maine to Delaware.
After years of study and interstate squabbling, Vermont and seven other Northeast states demanded last month that the EPA take action to curb the pollution from 40 of the largest Midwest coal-burning power plants.
The agency already had indicated it would direct states to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from the plants by as much as 60 percent beyond what already is required.
While 25 states may have to make additional emission reductions, the biggest will come in the Midwest. The plants have so far escaped stringent emission controls because generally they are located in areas of good local air quality.