Former Employees Say Concrete Company's Practices Contributed to Crumbling Foundations - NBC Connecticut

Former Employees Say Concrete Company's Practices Contributed to Crumbling Foundations

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016)

    John Soucy drove a concrete truck for the Joseph J. Mottes Company of Stafford for nearly a decade.

    He is one of several former employees from the 1970s, 80s and 90s who said the company's regular practices had a direct impact on the quality of the concrete used for residential foundations.

    "They didn't want to throw anything away, so if a mixer came back with a yard or two of concrete on it, they would just load on top of it," said Soucy

    Frank Willis drove a mixer for Mottes for 8 years.

    He said he'd often make seven deliveries or more in a day, and that the company added water all day long to keep the older concrete from hardening in the truck.

    "If you got three yards on and they put seven yards on top of you, do a foundation or whatever, that concrete is junk, just junk. Mottes was making 100 percent profit off of leftover concrete, so they wouldn't have you get rid of it," said Willis.

    Willis went on to work for at least two other Connecticut concrete operations.

    "Most companies tell you throw it away. Mottes, they'd just keep adding to it all day long," said Willis.

    We spoke with two other longtime J.J. Mottes employees who chose not to appear on camera. They echoed the same details about the company's daily operation.

    Over the past year, hundreds of homeowners across Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties have discovered they have crumbling foundations. Every one who's either spoken to NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters or has filed a complaint with the state, that knows the source of the concrete, said it's from J.J. Mottes.

    Since the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters brought the problem to light last summer, Mottes officials have repeatedly placed the blame on the foundation installers for adding too much water to make the concrete easier to work with. We reached out to company spokesman John Patton again this week and he sent this statement:

    "In the 15 years since we took over the management of the Joseph J. Mottes company, we have adhered to rigorous standards set forth by the American Concrete Institute and the State of Connecticut. We continue to cooperate with the ongoing state investigation so that homeowners can get the answers and real solutions they deserve. One thing that is clear to us is the extensive media and governmental scrutiny has led to another issue arising - in addition to homes affected by damage, there are now large numbers of homeowners and potential home buyers who do not have problems but are being told they will."

    Preliminary results from the state's investigation show an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite is present in each of the crumbling foundations. Pyrrhotite oxidizes or rusts when exposed to air and water which causes the foundation to deteriorate.

    Contractors said the problem cannot be fixed, forcing homeowners to replace the entire foundation at a cost of 100 thousand dollars and up. Insurers have denied most of the claims.

    Colin Lobo, Vice-President of the National Redi-Mix Concrete Association, said traditional tests will not detect pyrrhotite in the stone aggregate, but the presence of the mineral isn't catastrophic in and of itself.

    "Water is the problem that causes or deteriorates the quality of the concrete," said Lobo. "The weaker you make the concrete, the more water, the more access the mineral has to oxygen and water."

    These days, John Soucy works as an installer, and is now replacing foundations he poured himself years ago. We asked him why as a Mottes driver, he continued to use the old concrete, if he knew it was wrong.

    "I never agreed with it, but had I said anything at that point, I wouldn't have had a job," he said.

    All the former company employees we interviewed agree on one more thing, in light of their experience working for Mottes, they believe many more foundations will fail.

    "How many homes do you think in this part of Connecticut will be impacted by the crumbling foundation problem? I'd be afraid to guess. You think it's hundreds? Thousands. Thousands? Thousands."

    The Attorney General's office responded to our investigation saying that the state vetted extensive testimony about the use of excess water and that even if they could prove that excess water was added, there's no way to determine who added it, and at which point in the process.

    The Joseph J. Mottes Company has agreed to temporarily stop using stone aggregate from Becker's Quarry in Willington for residential foundations, while the state investigates. To date, 301 homeowners have filed complaints with Department Consumer Protection, but we should get a better idea of the scope of the problem when the State Insurance Department releases data collected from the insurance companies about how many crumbling foundation claims have been filed.