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Mineral to Blame in Cracking Foundations

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

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Officials in Connecticut have determined that concrete aggregate is partly to blame for hundreds of deteriorating residential foundations throughout the eastern part of the state.

Attorney General George Jepsen announced Monday (May 9) that initial scientific testing showed high levels of the mineral pyrrhotite found in stone aggregate used to produce concrete played a “substantial contributing factor” in the failure of the foundations.

concrete crack
©iStock.com / spxChrome

Hundreds of homeowners in Connecticut claim foundations of their houses, built in the 1980s and '90s, are cracking, crumbling and shifting. Officials are investigating the widespread issue.

However, the Attorney General notes the investigation is ongoing.

The investigation and testing was prompted after the state’s Department of Consumer Protection received 220 complaints from homeowners experiencing “severe foundation cracking or crumbling.”

Reports say that many of the failing foundations were poured between the early 1980s through 1998.

Voluntary Agreements

In addition, officials announced that two eastern Connecticut companies have voluntarily agreed to stop selling material or product containing aggregate from Becker’s Quarry in Willington for residential applications until June 2017.

"Because the aggregate produced by Becker's Quarry and the concrete made from it may contain pyrrhotite in significant levels, caution dictates that concrete products and ingredients from these companies be removed from the residential construction market until our investigation is complete," Jepsen said.

To date, no legal violations have been brought against the companies—Joseph J. Mottes Company (Stafford Springs) and Becker Construction Company (Willington).

concrete being poured
© iStock.com / mygueart

The aggregate used in the concrete contained high levels of pyrrhotite, officials said.

Under the agreement, the state reserves its right to assert any legal claims it may have against the companies after June 2017, and the companies reserve any defenses they may have to any such claims.

“We commend these companies for agreeing to this voluntary step in the interest of public confidence in the safety of building materials and in allowing a full investigation to be completed,” said Jepsen.

The Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris added: “Our findings have confirmed that pyrrhotite is a factor in failing foundations, and that has opened up the door for us to take some preliminary action that can help consumers.

“We know the urgency of this issue for so many homeowners in eastern Connecticut, and are confident that the investigation will continue to produce the results we need to get the outcomes homeowners are looking for.”

Commercial Not Included

The officials warn, however, that the agreement only applies to residential construction.

Attorney General
Official Photo

Attorney General George Jepsen says the investigation is ongoing.

Commissioner Harris and the Attorney General say commercial and public project managers are urged to continue exercising strict control and scrutiny over the quality of concrete products used in their projects.

To date, the state’s investigation has not revealed similar deterioration in commercial or public building foundations.

Pyrrhotite Problems

Pyrrhotite is a naturally occurring iron sulfide mineral that reacts with oxygen and deteriorates over time, reports relate, citing research.

The mineral has also been blamed for widespread concrete cracking issues in Quebec, according to The Canadian Press.

In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the province is spending $30 million over three years to help homeowners whose properties are affected by the problem mineral. Officials estimate up to 4,000 homes throughout Quebec are affected.

“I saw with my very own eyes the difficult situation in which too many families live because of pyrrhotite,” said Trudeau.

“This mineral destroys foundations and causes serious problems in the structures of houses.”

   

Tagged categories: Building materials; concrete; Concrete repair; Cracking; Cracks; Government; Repair materials; Residential Construction

Comment from peter gibson, (5/11/2016, 10:01 AM)

Again,lets all sue. How would anybody know the aggregate contained this material. Another ridiculous report.More fodder for lawyers. It never ends.


Comment from David Burgess, (5/11/2016, 10:25 AM)

Very informative! I am reminded of an old adage I was advised about concrete construction ... " it is what it is"! It is very commendable the companies in question do not subscribe to " it is what it is". Does anyone have a suggestion as to how one finds out what local quarries provide to batch plant operators?


Comment from Cameron Duncan, (5/12/2016, 8:13 AM)

Similarly, elevated air tests for asbestos alongside Maryland gravel roads were dismisses by authorities as due to overuse of vehicle brakes by the conservative residents. That was before it was found that the asbestos found in the gravel matched the vein running through the supplying, local quarry. All learned from the mistake, corrected, and moved on.


Comment from Peter Hartog, (5/12/2016, 8:30 AM)

Iron sulphides and other potentially reactive aggregates can be detected at the source and in concrete batch-plant stockpiles by simple benchtop tests and confirmed by fast laboratory analysis and petrography. Supply of concrete containing pyrrhotite since "the early 1980s through 1998" suggests something far short of due diligence. Peter Hartog Bangkok Thailand


Comment from peter gibson, (5/12/2016, 11:55 AM)

Concrete makers are not that sophisticated operations,with labs/tests handy to detect all these contaminants. Easy to theorize after the fact. They used the concrete from 80/90S; but the problem reared it ugly head well down the road.


Comment from Andrew Piedl, (5/13/2016, 10:11 AM)

There is no mention of any law suit. If a facility does not have testing capability, it is not that difficult to throw some aggregate in a box and send it off to a material testing facility. I'd be curious to know if it is standard practice to test for sulfide content in aggregate.


Comment from Terry Stransky, (2/10/2017, 2:24 PM)

There are very few testing labs that employ petrographers;mine happens to be one. The pyrrhotite is NOT easily detected without petrograpy, and batch plants labs are NOT designed for testing of this nature,.


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