November 4, 2016

Report: Suspect mineral contributes to crumbling foundations

A final report from experts hired by the state confirms a conclusion reached earlier this year that the mineral pyrrhotite is a contributing factor in the deterioration of concrete that's caused cracking and crumbling in home foundations in Connecticut.

Attorney General George Jepsen released the report Friday. Two researchers in UConn's advanced cementitious materials and composites (ACMC) laboratory at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering completed the report on Aug. 31. The Department of Consumer Protection, along with Jepsen's office, hired the duo.

The researchers based their findings on "mechanical, mineralogical, microstructural and chemical tests" of on core samples taken from seven houses and the visual inspection of 14 additional houses. The "expansive" secondary minerals created when pyrrhotite oxidizes in the presence of water and oxygen or ferric ions "can lead to the premature deterioration of the concrete foundation[s] investigated in this research," they concluded.

This past spring, the state determined pyrrhotite found at Becker's Quarry may be partially to blame for crumbling concrete foundations, a conclusion disputed by two companies J.J. Mottes Co. and Becker Construction, which nevertheless have agreed to stop supplying aggregate for residential foundations for at least one season after the state found that Becker's Quarry contains the mineral.

The report only confirms the cause of crumbling concrete, and does not resolve related questions like how much of the mineral leads to deterioration and other issues, Jepsen noted in a cover letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DCP Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris.

Connecticut's consumer protection laws do not regulate the presence of the mineral in foundation construction or provide any relief for property owners with failing structures, Jepsen said.

In October, Malloy asked federal regulators to assess the damage caused by crumbling foundations in some 43,130 homes in Connecticut after an earlier inquiry failed to get their attention.

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