Scott Depot

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.


Jonathan Simpkins, Coal Miner, Kanawha County

Ever go to brush your teeth or just wash some fruit and realize you can’t? Ever use body spray and lotion to clean up with after work?

I don’t drink tap water myself. But I have a cat and dog to provide for. I change their water daily. This is an inconvenience now. But what if this goes on for months?

I’m extremely fortunate that my grandparents live 20 miles away in Scott Depot, WV. Their water hasn’t been contaminated. So I can go there to shower and get water if needed. But what about the elderly who don’t have someone looking out for them? If this goes on for awhile it will most definitely be a crisis.

I work in a coal mine. Please don’t blame this incident on the coal industry. It was a company who makes chemicals who messed up big time. Was the Gulf of Mexico oil spill the car industries fault?

No more eating out for awhile. Restaurants are closed. Bars are closed. Schools are closed. This is going to have a huge impact on local businesses. If my favorite restaurant Leonoros goes out of business because of this there will be hell to pay.