PARKERSBURG - A local businessman is suing the West Virginia Department of Highways over water damage to two of his properties.
Steve Mohwish said his lawsuit will be heard in Charleston in November.
He is trying to force the state to fix a drainage issue that has ruined one building and now threatens to damage another.
A photo taken after heavy rains in early September shows Steve Mohwish pointing to the high water mark on his damaged property at 3300 1/2 Camden Ave. Mohwish is suing the state Department of Transportation, claiming a collapsed drain which channeled water from two state roads is causing flooding and extensive damage to two of his Camden Avenue properties. (Photo by Michael Erb)
Property owner Steve Mohwish says a collapsed drain and stormwater from two state roads is causing extensive damage to his building’s on Camden Avenue. City officials said the eroding hillside has already damaged a section of sidewalk and is now threatening a section of old Camden Avenue, which is a state road. (Photo by Michael Erb)
Mohwish said about six years ago a drainage path collapsed beneath property owned by Saurabi Naik and his business Sirnaik Holdings of West Virginia. The drain channeled water from West Virginia 95 and old Camden Ave., both of which are state roads.
"It's their water. It runs off of two state highways," Mohwish said.
The collapsed drain has turned the drainage stream, which normally would have channeled water off of the roads and into the river, into a collection pond. At its highest point the water completely submerged the bottom floor of 3300 1/2 Camden Ave.
"In years past, the water in that stream might have backed up for an hour. Now it stays for weeks," he said. "There are dead animals that wash up in there. It stinks and it's pulling the hillside away."
Mohwish said the building is almost unusable.
The bottom floor is caked in mud, with floorboards rotting away and mold growing in the walls.
The upper floors are used for storage, but as the building continues to sink he will have to vacate the building entirely.
Mohwish also owns the Dixie Bar and Grill at 3300 Camden Ave. and has an apartment above the business.
The foundation of that building has begun to suffer damage as the hillside pulls away, and he fears if the situation continues he will lose both buildings.
"I just want them to fix this problem, to fix the drainage," he said.
In 2010 Mohwish filed suit against the city, the state and Naik, as well as the Wood County Commission.
However, Mohwish said most of the entities named were removed from the suit. The court removed the state from the suit because you cannot sue a state agency in a local court, Mohwish said.
Mayor Bob Newell said the city was named in the suit because Mohwish's properties are within the city, but it quickly became evident the roads and the drainage were state issues. The site of the collapse also is considered to be outside of the city.
"When you go on that side of the old Camden Ave., that's all outside of the city," he said.
Mohwish said the settlement from the local lawsuit didn't fix any of the issues, but has allowed him to pursue the Department of Transportation in state court.
Newell said the drainage issue doesn't only threaten Mohwish's property, it also is causing damage to the road.
"It's already taken part of a sidewalk there," he said.
He has a legitimate issue, and whoever is responsible should fix it. That's the part that's in question, who is responsible," Newell said. "I'd like to see this get fixed, and soon."
Rusty Roten, district engineer for District 3 of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said he could no comment due to the pending litigation. Brent Walker, spokesman for the state DoT, also declined to comment.
"You have someone who believes they have a complaint, and we just need to let the process sort things out," Walker said.