Primary School

How to Engage People in Critical Dialogue about the Water Crisis

If you’re interested in how to engage people who are resistant to being critical of the coal or chemical industries in West Virginia in conversations about the Water Crisis, this is the video for you. My dear friend and mentor Dr. Roxanne Aftanas speaks about the rhetoric of coal and chemical industries in West Virginia and her view on the Water Crisis. An Arkansas native, Roxanne has a unique outsider/insider perspective. After living and teaching here for nearly a decade, she offers her take on how she gets her students to think critically about the industrial economy in West Virginia and what it has or hasn’t done for them. She asks them, if coal keeps the lights on, where’s the money? She also speaks about the effect of the coal industry on education as she has observed as a university professor and as a parent.

I filmed this just a few days after the chemical spill occurred, so the way people are now responding has certainly evolved since then. But there are still so many people who are unwillingly to be critical of the industries that “sustain” West Virginia and are killing West Virginians and destroying our environment. Roxanne’s interview serves as an example of how we can engage more critical dialogues with those who are resistant.

I’m returning to West Virginia this weekend to film. If you have contacted me about doing an interview and I haven’t gotten back to yet, please don’t think I’ve forgotten you! I will be in touch soon. Everyone’s story is important and I will do my best to get to all of you who have so generously offered to tell me yours.

*None of the opinions featured in this interview  reflect those of Marshall University.

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Kendra Meeks, Mother, Winfield, Putnam County

I am a 26 years old and my name is Kendra Meeks. I live in Winfield, WV, and I am a victim of the water crisis. I have two young sons who are both 6 years old (not twins…stepbrothers) but we have suffered a lot in the past three weeks. First our schools were closed two Christmas break for a week and a half and then both my sons went back to school on that Thursday like planned, but then that Friday the schools had to close due to bad weather (snow). Then the following Monday they were closed still for bad weather. Tuesday and Wednesday they were out due to no power, so they finally went back this past Thursday and we were all hoping they wouldn’t miss anymore school due to make-up days. Then we heard the news of this chemical leak, which of course closed school this past Friday. Talk about aggravating. My children have been in school for two days in the last three weeks, and who knows when they will be allowed to go back!!!

This isn’t the only reason I’m irritated though. The big issue to me is that we weren’t notified until 4 pm in the evening about this leak, and that the plant knew what happened but never told anyone is wrong. I babysit at home and I was letting my sitting children drink the water all day and I cooked them lunch with that water. What if it would’ve seriously hurt these children who are two to three years old?!!! That guilt would’ve never left my mind if I knew I was the reason that something happened to those precious babies. What the plant owner did was wrong.

Not to mention, I’m to worried to go to the grocery store because I don’t want to get trampled on by all these people out there that are worried and buying all the food and drinks they can. So now my question is who is going to feed my children when we run out of food cause there is none to buy?!! Somebody will because I will dig to the end of the earth if I have to for those plant owners to feed my kids if I have to and I’m sure there are plenty other parents out there that are worried about this same exact thing!!! How can you sit back and know that this is harmful but still not tell anyone and let people bathe and drink this crap?!!

All I know is I will NOT be paying my water bill this month bc it’s half their fault too for not communicating with the plant and vice versa!!!! We have been relying on our community for water and praise The Lord my sister who resides in St. Albans has their city water. My fiancé works at Diamond Electric and they were kind enough to bring portable showers in for their employees and their families so that’s where we have been bathing which is RIDICULOUS that I can’t bathe my own kids in my home!!!

Who’s going to pay for all the water we have bought or the laundry and dishes we can’t touch which are piling high bc we can’t find plastic or paper plates or silverware anywhere!!! So let me just say this if my children are out of school any longer than a week I’m going to be highly upset because not only did they interrupt our lives every day, but they also took away the ability for my children to learn, School is where children belong not locked up in a house that you can’t brush your teeth, take a bath, or even touch the water for that matter!!!

We need and want answers and I do believe that the plant needs to start talking instead of avoiding the situation this isn’t a minor issue it has affected around 300,000 people and it’s hard to tell how many of those people are infant newborn babies that are innocent and what if their mothers can’t find water to feed their children what are they supposed to do just let their baby’s starve to death!!!! I’m sure this has affected some of the workers at this plant so why they won’t speak is beyond me but also I think it’s quite rude when the owner is having a press conference with the news channel and he stops talking to take a drink of his bottled water. How about you quit being selfish since you started this problem and get out there and start handing your bottled water out to the people who are affected!!!

I want to thank whoever started this blog because this just lifted a huge weight off my shoulders because I have been highly upset for days now and it feels good to get this off my chest!!! I hope those that are affected by this issue have what they need and I hope they have friends and family as great as I do to help them out and don’t forget if you have pets do not give them tapwater give them bottled!!! Good luck everyone and you’re all in my prayers as I hope I am in yours!!!