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December 17, 2019

CT lawmakers seeking $1.5M for crumbling foundations research

HBJ PHOTO | Bill Morgan South Windsor resident Kristen Cole is one of many homeowners dealing with cracks in her home's foundation.

Members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation have moved closer to securing $1.5 million in federal funding to study how pyrrhotite effects concrete foundations in the state.

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Reps. Joe Courtney and John Larson in a joint statement Monday announced that funding they sought to conduct research on Connecticut’s crumbling foundations crisis has been included in the final version of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020.

The bill, made public Monday evening, asks the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct research on the effects of the mineral pyrrhotite on concrete. 

NIST, a physical sciences laboratory, is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Connecticut lawmakers, all Democrats, say NIST is the federal government’s top expert in cement and concrete standards.

There is currently no standard for the amount of pyrrhotite that must be present for a concrete foundation to qualify for financial assistance.

“Thousands of homeowners in Connecticut and Massachusetts have crumbling foundations,” the delegation said in a statement. “We need a better understanding of the scope of the crisis and of the mineral pyrrhotite, and homeowners and others need a clear understanding of the risks of pyrrhotite, and the levels at which it poses a true danger to the integrity of a concrete foundation.”

According to the bill, the federal funding would allow NIST to develop a cost-effective and standard testing method for at-risk homes and other structures for the presence of the mineral pyrrhotite. 

NIST would also create a risk-rating scale for homeowners, businesses and municipalities to inform them on what level of pyrrhotite poses a danger to their foundation’s structural integrity, the bill states.

The crumbling concrete crisis in Connecticut is affecting tens of thousands of homeowners, mainly in the Northeast corridor of the state, and several non-residential structures, including schools, libraries and bridges.

In Tolland, Birch Grove Primary School is being torn down and replaced by a new school because of crumbling concrete. The bridge on Jones Crossing Road in Coventry is suspected to contain the mineral that’s causing concrete to deteriorate.

The state Supreme Court last month ruled that homeowners’ insurance policies are exempt from financial relief for crumbling foundations. That decision means nonprofit insurer Connecticut Foundations Solutions Indemnity Company (CFSIC) is still the primary source of assistance to fix residential properties.

Meantime, Greater Hartford’s corporate sector has stepped up to provide monetary relief for homeowners with crumbling foundations.

Property-and-casualty insurer The Hartford has committed $3.5 million and Liberty Mutual has pledged $7 million for current and former insureds with homes experiencing deterioration of their foundation because of pyrrhotite in the concrete.

The insurers will pay up to $25,000 for current insureds and a maximum of $10,000 for former insureds in addition to funds provided by the state’s program, which is overseen by CFSIC.

A Journal Inquirer report contributed to this story

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