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Report Details Cause of Foundation Cracks

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

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New research confirms that pyrrhotite is to blame for premature cracking and deteriorating concrete foundations seen throughout hundreds of homes in Connecticut, but officials say important questions remain unanswered.

The research report, released by the state’s Attorney General George Jepsen and produced by University of Connecticut engineers, determined that the naturally occurring mineral is a “necessary contributing factor” in the foundation issues that have plagued more than 400 homeowners.

Report
 

Severe cracks have been discovered in foundations of hundreds of residences in Connecticut, prompting a consumer protection investigation.

The report confirms initial scientific testing announced in May.

No Relief

However, the expert findings do not alter the fact that the state’s consumer protection laws don’t provide relief to affected homeowners, Jepsen told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Jonathan A. Harris, the consumer protection commissioner.

State law has “never prohibited, limited or otherwise regulated the presence of pyrrhotite in residential construction,” he wrote in a cover letter for the research report.

Still, the state’s Department of Consumer Protection investigation into the matter continues, reports say.

Report Details

In their report, the UConn researchers focused on the scientific explanation of the deterioration and its causes.  

Pyrrhotite is a naturally occurring iron sulfide mineral that reacts with oxygen and deteriorates over time.

The researchers report that some other countries have enacted standards that regulate the content of iron sulfides in aggregates for concrete, noting, however, that “American regulators have not responded to either scientific findings or incidents of sulfur attacks by enacting regulations in building codes or statutes that limit the amount of iron sulfides in concrete.”

concrete
© iStock.com / mygueart

The aggregate used in the concrete contained pyrrhotite, officials said. It is unclear the precise amount of pyrrhotite necessary to lead to deterioration.

According to Jepsen, important questions were left unanswered in the report, such as the precise amount of pyrrhotite necessary to prompt deterioration or other contributing factors that might explain why certain homes experienced a reaction while others were not affected.

Jepsen noted that those questions remain of interest to the public and policy makers.

Background

Some 400 homeowners scattered in 23 towns in eastern Connecticut have filed complaints with the consumer protection agency after noticing premature deterioration in their concrete foundations, according to the Hartford Courant.

Many of the failing foundations were poured between the early 1980s and late 1990s. Some lawmakers suggest the problem will continue to grow as more affected homeowners will come forward. The Governor has even requested federal aid in the matter.

The bill to replace a foundation can be as much as $200,000, and most insurance companies have denied homeowners’ claims, Hartford Courant reports.

Quarry Link

Following the initial scientific analysis findings, officials announced that two eastern Connecticut companies voluntarily agreed to stop selling material or product containing aggregate from a 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 at the time.

Pyrrhotite Problems

Pyrrhotite has also recently 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 defects; Cracking; Government; Repair materials

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