There are indications that Connecticut’s crumbling concrete crisis may not stop at the state line, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have found.
How widespread this issue is just north of the border with Massachusetts remains the question.
Russell Dupere of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, said he had no idea he had a problem with his basement until he had to gut paneling and drywall after a hot water heater leak. He had engineers visually inspect it and they told him he may have "a Connecticut issue."
Dupere was aware of the crumbling concrete crisis a few miles to the south in Connecticut, where 664 homeowners and counting have reported to the state their basements must get replaced, sometimes costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars because most insurers won't cover it. Dupere then got someone to drill and test several core samples from the basement.
The test came back and said the basement walls had a pyrrhotite concentration approaching 25 percent.
Pyrrhotite is a naturally occurring mineral that when exposed to air and water can cause concrete to crack slowly from the inside out, according to experts.
Dupere said an estimate to replace his basement would cost $350,000 and his insurer denied his claim for coverage.
Dupere does not know who poured his basement in 1990, however, it sits in a 20-mile radius of the now-defunct J.J. Mottes company in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. The family that owned J.J. Mottes has said for years it made concrete using aggregate stone from Becker's Quarry in Willington, Connecticut, another business it owns.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, pyrrhotite is rare and Becker's Quarry is one of the only places where pyrrhotite is found. Contractors have told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters concrete can only be delivered about twenty miles from its source. It allows for enough time for the concrete to be mixed and delivered within the 90-minute window before it begins to set, per industry standards.
No one from the former J.J. Mottes company would comment for NBC Connecticut’s Massachusetts story, but in the past, it has said its concrete that failed in Connecticut was not installed properly.
There are people in just north of the Connecticut-Massachusetts border who have photos or documents that appear to show homeowners had concrete poured by J.J. Mottes and their basements are cracking, the homeowners said.
One of those Massachusetts homeowners is a person who owned a home in East Longmeadow. Real estate agent, John Wynne, said his client’s house was valued at $400,000 before cracking was discovered and the home ended up selling it for roughly half that amount.
”My client was devastated,” Wynne said.
So far, between talking with homeowners and local governments in 14 Western Massachusetts towns, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have been able to confirm at least three municipalities where homes with crumbling basements have been found, though at this point none of the towns can definitively say it's the same problem as the one in Connecticut or that the basements were poured by J.J. Mottes. Six towns said they have no reports of crumbling basements. Another five have not responded to NBC Connecticut requests for comment.
Homeowners like Dupere hope local, state and federal leaders study up on the problem quickly and take lessons learned by their neighbors to the south.
“Connecticut has so many people that are public about this issue and know they have the issue that I think that's really helped down there. Here there are so few people that have found out about it yet that it's difficult to get anything to move,” Dupere.
Dupere’s town is in State Senator Eric Lesser’s district who called the situation horrible.
“This is a horrible situation that many people, including some of my constituents, have found themselves in. We need to make sure the public is protected, homeowners are protected and their property is protected. Affected homeowners must receive compensation,” Lesser said.
One town manager in Western Massachusetts, when talking about Connecticut leaders dealing with the crumbling concrete issue said “misery loves company” when it comes to the crumbling foundations issue and he may be right. Staffers from elected offices in Connecticut have privately told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that if this becomes a two state problem, it may be easier to get federal help, which so far, has been hard to come by.