CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Recent heavy rains have caused a mess at some state Capitol offices.
Downpours have wound up causing sewer systems to back up, causing damage to first floor offices in the main Capitol building.
Offices like those for the state Auditor, the Legislative Auditor, the Department of Agriculture and the Attorney General have been affected.
“Here the last couple of weeks it’s been about every day we’ve had a major storm and have had to come and do major cleanups,” said Jeff Waybright, chief of staff in the state Auditor’s Office.
On Friday morning, office workers were moving conference room furniture and pulling up carpet, in preparation to have it professionally cleaned and stored.
Such damage has happened at the Capitol now and then over the years, but Waybright described it as particularly frequent of late because of the intensity of recent storms.
“The frequency and the severity of the storms dumping as much water as it has, the drains just couldn’t handle it,” he said.
The pipes in the old building seem to get overloaded, causing toilets to back up and overflow.
“I think probably we’re going to have to get some engineers in here,” Waybright said.” I don’t think Cass Gilbert realized how much water would be running off here.”
The General Services Division is aware of the problem and trying to get a handle on it, said Diane Holley-Brown, spokeswoman for the Department of Administration.
“So far, the General Services Division staff has not determined any signs of blockages or anything else out of the ordinary,” she said this week. “However, staff is continuing the exploration of the drain lines with a camera as a precautionary measure.”
She added, “The Division continues to evaluate the ability of the current piping to handle the large amounts of rainfall that we have experienced lately and will seek professional engineering advice, as required, to solve the problem and prevent future occurrences.”
Messes have been common aggravations for the offices on either wing of the Capitol’s first floor.
“Some of the office experienced flooding, which will require replacement of flooring and furniture,” said Curtis Johnson, a spokesman with the state Attorney General’s Office.
Legislative Manager Aaron Allred confirmed his department’s offices on that floor have been hit too. “Yes, multiple times,” Allred said, clarifying that it’s been four times in the past two weeks. It’s ruined carpeting and drywall.
The Department of Agriculture, which has most of its offices in Guthrie but some at the Capitol, said such problems have occurred for years, dating back to the tenure of longtime Commissioner Gus Douglass.
“This has been an ongoing issue for several years even under Commissioner Douglass. Our executive assistant who staffs the Capitol office says it has been getting worse over the years,” said Crescent Gallagher, a spokesman for the department.
Damage was significant under the tenure of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick.
“They found E.coli in the carpet which was the reason Helmick ended up rehabbing the entire office. There is no more carpet in the Commissioner’s Capitol office,” Gallagher said.
The most recent instance was June 26, when the sewer backed up into the Commissioner’s office from the restroom because of the heavy raining.
The Auditor’s Office, which was pulling up carpet and moving out furniture, is deciding how to proceed. Most affected has been a conference room that receives frequent use.
“It’s going to put a little cramp in our style,” Waybright said.