Ed. Note: The original version of this story incorrectly referred to John Patton as the president of the J.J. Mottes company. He is, in fact, a spokesperson.
One town official fears the issue of crumbling foundations in the eastern part of Connecticut is a “growing crisis.”
Tolland Town Manager Steven Werbner wrote a letter to Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman requesting she help implement a state task force made up of representatives from the private sector, several state agencies and federal, state and local officials to help tackle the issue.
Werbner fears if homeowners walk away from their homes without fixing the problem, the impact could be a costly public safety hazard for communities.
Hundreds of homeowners have reached out to NBC Connecticut since a July 21 investigation exposing the problems. All say their foundations were poured between the early 1980s through 1998. Those who know say the company that supplied the concrete is J.J. Mottes Company in Stafford Springs.
Werbner says he feels no town can address the number of private and public structures potentially impacted by the failing foundations on their own.
He wrote to the lieutenant governor the “outcomes desired from such a Task Force include an understanding of the scope and scale of the problem, information on options for repair, a means to disseminate public information on the issue, testing procedures to identify the potential problem, banking and insurance guarantees and funds to help homeowners make the necessary repairs.”
The issue is one Lyle Wray is taking seriously. As executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, Wray represents 38 towns in Hartford and Tolland Counties. He believes the first step is sorting out the facts.
“How many homes are involved? Where do we stand legally in terms of home warranties, home insurance? How do homeowners potentially get remedies? And then, we can get into the issue of how the state governments and others might help deal with this?” said Wray.
Wray’s concern is not only for the individual homeowners, but the neighbors in the community as well.
“There’s a big ripple effect here,” said Wray. “If suddenly you can’t get mortgages on a home or suddenly homes are uninsurable, that’s a big problem.”
Ellington First Selectman Maurice Blanchette is also worried about the potential impact on his town.
“It impacts everybody…eventually,” said Blanchette. “It’s scary for anybody. It’s scary for me as a homeowner. It’s scary for me as a first selectman because a lot of people will be in distress.”
In the month since the first Troubleshooters investigation aired, the attorney general’s office announced it would assist the Department of Consumer Protection in a Civil Investigation Demand process. Initiated at the request of the governor, the CID is a fact finding mission in which the state can question J.J. Mottes, under oath about the potential cause and scope of the issue.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and Congressman Joe Courtney are trying to identify any federal options that can be exhausted to help homeowners.
Only one state legislator, however, has responded to NBC Connecticut’s requests for comment. State Rep. Kelly Luxenberg, a Democrat from Manchester, told Troubleshooter George Colli she supports the idea of a state task force.
Luxenberg said she hopes to put together a roundtable of eastern Connecticut legislators to discuss potential legislative responses to the issue “to try and help the homeowners currently affected and to look at this prospectively to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”
Approximately 2,000 home foundations in a region of Quebec, Canada, are also crumbling, allegedly because of pyrrhotite in the concrete. The iron sulfide mineral oxidizes, causing a chemical reaction that leads to decomposition of the concrete. This, in turn, causes cracks and eventual failure. The provincial government in Canada set up a $15 million fund to help pay for foundation replacements.
After the Troubleshooters’ reports, the state of Connecticut now believes pyrrhotite could be the cause of the problems in eastern Connecticut.
Representatives from J.J. Mottes Company declined to comment again.
They have not released any statement since the original Troubleshooters story aired on July 21. In response to that original investigation, a spokesperson for J.J. Mottes Company, John Patton, said the company has received no issues with foundations poured after 1998 and has “begun working with managers, geologists and testing labs to review our manufacturing methods and materials.”
That review began after NBC Connecticut first questioned the company.
The lieutenant governor’s office would not comment on the request to initiate a state task force, but in a statement acknowledged the Department of Consumer Protection’s civil investigation, adding:
“Our hearts of course go out to the families potentially affected – the state is actively looking into the issues… The state is working to understand the scope of the problem and hopefully, if possible, find potential solutions.”
More than 200 homeowners have contacted the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters with details of their crumbling foundations. If you have dealt with this issue, are dealing with the issue or fear you may be affected, send pictures, your address, and year your home was built, along with the builder and, if you know it, the concrete company to Troubleshooters@NBCConnecticut.com.
Ed. Note: As the Troubleshooters have reported on this issue over the past year and a half, the Joseph J. Mottes Company (JJ Mottes) has evolved its response. Click on this link to see the company’s most recent full statement to NBC Connecticut and its response to the State of Connecticut.