<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Troubleshooters - Crumbling Foundations Complete Coverage]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/troubleshootersen-usThu, 23 Nov 2017 02:44:26 -0500Thu, 23 Nov 2017 02:44:26 -0500NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Troubleshooters Win duPont Award]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:47:55 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/DUPONT+AWARD+1200X675+121416.jpg

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters are proud to be selected as a winner of the 2017 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for our comprehensive coverage of the crumbling foundations problem plaguing eastern Connecticut.

Every year, about a dozen news stories and films across the United States are honored with a duPont for the strength of their reporting, storytelling and impact in the public interest. The winning pieces are selected by the duPont jury from hundreds of entries vetted by a board of screeners. The awards are presented at Columbia University’s Low Library in a ceremony hosted by some of the country’s leading broadcast journalists.

The Troubleshooters have devoted hundreds of hours over more than 18 months to the issue of crumbling foundations in eastern Connecticut. In that time we have conducted extensive research, conducted dozens of interviews with homeowners, local leaders, elected officials and construction and engineering experts.

In July 2015, we broke the story about dozens of homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties who discovered their concrete foundations are deteriorating. The homes with faulty basements were all built between the early 1980s and the early 2000s and most began to show signs of deterioration between ten and 20 years after construction.

The Troubleshooters investigation was the catalyst for the State of Connecticut to launch its own multi-agency probe into the cause and scope of the problem. In a series of initial reports, the Troubleshooters reported pyrrhotite, a naturally-occurring iron sulfide mineral, as the likely root of the foundation issues. When exposed to air and water, the mineral begins to oxidize or rust which pushes on the concrete from the inside and ultimately causes it to crack and deteriorate. In the fall of 2016, a scientific study ordered by the state came to the same conclusion the Troubleshooters had reported.

The Troubleshooters also interviewed a senior manager at the concrete company at the center of the state’s investigation, the John J Mottes Company. The company believes that the problem with the foundations is caused by faulty installation, rather than any defect with its product. They did voluntarily agree in May 2016, to cease production of concrete for residential construction until at least June of 2017, while the state conducted its investigation.

Construction experts say the foundation issues cannot be repaired; all of the concrete must be replaced at a cost of $100,000 and up. In addition, few homeowners have insurance policies which cover the slow deterioration of their concrete foundation. As a result, several hundred homeowners currently find themselves in a dire financial position.

In recent months, the Troubleshooters have broken several other developments with the story, including the rollout of a state program in conjunction with the insurance industry to provide more than $50 million to homeowners to fix their foundations. Only three insurers came forward to participate in the program, and as a result it's currently in a state of limbo. In another attempt to find funding, Governor Malloy appealed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) twice in 2016, only to be rebuffed both times.

The Troubleshooters have followed closely the process of local and state leaders sharing information with the struggling homeowners as they try to devise a financial solution to repair the foundations. The problem has begun to impact towns across eastern Connecticut, as many of the impacted homeowners have appealed to their local municipalities for temporary relief in the form of a reduction in their property tax assessment. As a result the tax base in many of towns is gradually shrinking, and local leaders fear there may be a domino effect on town services. The real estate market in the affected region has also taken a hit. Now more than 18 months since the Troubleshooters brought the situation to light, the problem is widely acknowledged, and many potential buyers are requesting proof that homes do not have the foundation issue.

At this point, state and local leaders are working together to craft a financial solution in the form of a bill to be presented to the state legislature early in 2017. The goal is to access funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and other sources to begin to heal the problem across eastern Connecticut. According to the Capital Region Council of Governments (CRCOG), there are currently nearly six hundred homeowners in 37 different cities and towns who have informed either their local town or a state agency that they have identified the foundation problem. Most construction experts agree that because of the gradual nature of the concrete deterioration, ultimately thousands of Connecticut homeowners will suffer the same fate.

Here's a link to NBC Connecticut's coverage of the Crumbling Foundations crisis: Crumbling Foundations coverage.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations Timeline: Troubleshooters' Coverage]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 17:31:35 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling-foundation-photo.jpg

Take a closer look at NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters' investigation on crumbling foundations over the last year and a half. 



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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<![CDATA[JJ Mottes Response to Crumbling Foundations]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 15:17:59 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/john+patton+jj+mottes.jpg

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. This is the company’s most recent full statement to NBC Connecticut and its response to the State of Connecticut.

The Joseph J. Mottes Company (JJ Mottes) provided this statement to NBC Connecticut in August 2016:

“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.

 “Certainly, those homes with damage need to be remedied, but a comprehensive solution is called for - one that helps those who are not financially capable of helping themselves, guards against predators of all kinds and eases the burden placed on the real estate market. We believe that effective lower cost preventive remedial actions exist, that appropriate independent authorities can and should identify these techniques, and this information needs to be widely shared and adopted.” – John Patton, spokesman, The Joseph J. Mottes Company

In conjunction with a Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) with the state of Connecticut, attorneys for the Joseph J. Mottes Company and Becker Construction Company provided a letter, dated May 6, 2016 to the state. You can read the full agreement and letter here: http://www.ct.gov/ag/lib/ag/press_releases/2016/20160509_mottes_becker_avc.pdf

The letter says, in part:

Mottes and Becker wish to reiterate and make clear to each of your agencies and to the public at large several important facts that bear upon their willingness to enter into this AVC at this time.

A. Mottes has not made or installed and does not make or install, residential foundations;

B. Mottes’s materials and processes are subject to continual inspection and testing, and the concrete it has manufactured is mixed to precise standards. Aggregate from the Becker Quarry, during all relevant times, had been routinely tested by the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation Laboratories and other private material testing Laboratories and has consistently met all regulations and standards for use in ready mix concrete. The forming of foundations by installers and builders, on the other hand, is unregulated, unlicensed, unsupervised and uninspected - but needs to be, as these installation practices have the most significant effect on a foundation’s strength and durability

C. Mottes and Becker continue to strongly believe that the current situation involving residential foundations in Eastern Connecticut is an installation issue. Mottes and Becker support an unbiased, comprehensive investigation of the foundation issues - including how the materials were placed and installed, in addition to remedial actions - so that homeowners can get the answers they deserve and meaningful help with solutions.

D. Mottes ready mix concrete containing aggregate from the Becker quarry in Willington, CT, and from other aggregate sellers, has been used in state, municipal and commercial foundations, walls, sidewalks and other structures without deterioration, and the same ready mix concrete has been used in residential concrete foundations, walls, sidewalks and other structures within the state of Connecticut without deterioration;

E. Mottes ready mix concrete containing aggregate from the Becker quarry in Willington, CT, and other aggregate sellers, has been purchased and used by various residential concrete foundation installers within the State of Connecticut without deterioration;

F. Some ready mix concrete containing aggregate from the Becker quarry in Willington, CT, and from other aggregate sellers, was purchased and used by some residential concrete foundations installers in the 1980’s, who are no longer in business within the State of Connecticut, and who did not comply with American Concrete Institute and Connecticut standards, which practice is known to diminish concrete durability;

G. Mottes and Becker have independently conducted their own investigation as to the claims of concrete foundation deterioration and have reason to believe that numerous installation and environmental factors caused or otherwise contributed to residential concrete foundation deterioration;

H. Mottes and Becker have not seen any evidence that any residential concrete foundation deterioration was caused by their products;

I. Pyrrhotite is a common mineral in Connecticut and my clients have concluded that the mere presence of pyrrhotite in concrete is not the cause of residential concrete foundation deterioration, as pyrrhotite will remain inert and will not become reactive within properly installed residential concrete foundations;

J. Mottes and Becker have recently come to believe that under certain installations and environmental conditions, pyrrhotite may become reactive with other elements, principally water, which contributes to residential concrete foundation deterioration;

K. Mottes and Becker have come to believe that exterior waterproofing of foundations will protect residential concrete foundations from deterioration, even those containing pyrrhotite;

L. Mottes and Becker have come to believe that exterior waterproofing of foundations will protect residential concrete foundations from deterioration, even those which have commenced deterioration;

M. Mottes and Becker also have familiarity with a commercially available product which can be applied on either side of a basement wall and will continue to react through the wall to prevent water infiltration which is a necessary component of any reaction



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Map of Connecticut Homes Reporting Crumbling Foundations]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 00:20:25 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundation-Map-Thumbnail.jpg

Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) provided the Troubleshooters with aggregated data from various sources on crumbling foundations in Connecticut.

CRCOG compiled information from municipal officials, the Department of Consumer Protection, the Connecticut Insurance Department and in one case, an engineer who does home inspections.

The group notes a home could be reported to more than one source. As a result, it takes an average number of homes reporting crumbling foundations from all of its sources.

If the average is larger than the number of homes municipal officials (town assessors, first selectmen, etc) provide, CRCOG uses its own estimate. However, if the average is equal to or smaller, the group chooses the municipal officials' numbers.

NBC Connecticut's map is plotted using CRCOG's estimated numbers of affected homes.



Photo Credit: CRCOG
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<![CDATA[We Have Crumbling Foundations]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 00:21:03 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundation-mosaic-thumbnail.jpg

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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<![CDATA[What to Look For in a Crumbling Foundation]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 00:21:17 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/Drazen-Crumbling-Foundations.jpg

While covering the crumbling foundations story, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have received countless questions from homeowners about what they should do if they suspect they have the concrete problem.

The Capital Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) has a webpage with useful information for homeowners. Working with local public works and contruction experts, CRCOG has compiled an initial list of qualified vendors for Structural Engineering Services and Concrete Foundations Replacement Services. Click here to see the list.

We spoke with Don Childree, a local contractor who has consulted on the concrete issue with hundreds of homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties over the past several years. In this video, he provides insight as to the symptoms of the crumbling foundation problem as well as what to do if you suspect your home has this concrete issue. Childree also details the process of replacing the concrete to restore home to its full value.

In addition, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection has a great deal of information about the steps you can take, if you suspect you have a crumbling foundation.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Help Available for Residents With Crumbling Concrete Foundations]]>Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:19:04 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/Joe-Courtney-John-Larson-Steven-Mnuchin.jpg

Major developments on the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation into crumbling foundations. We have been telling you about the plight of homeowners for more than two years. And now, more help is on the way.

Last month state leaders came through with $100 million of bond money over five years. Now the U.S. Congressmen representing the areas with the problem have another solution, tax deductions for repairs done on homes with crumbling concrete basements.

Congressmen John Larson and Joe Courtney say after 19 months of negotiating, they have secured federal tax relief from the IRS. People facing expenses to fix this, that can approach and even exceed $200,000 can now deduct the cost of the repairs that are not reimbursed. Most insurers do not cover this problem that affects people like Sheila Cyr of Tolland. “This is great. I had tears in my eyes just listening to this whole thing. Just, so appreciative and thankful to everybody."

The crumbling basements have been caused by concrete poured from 1983 through about 2013 in north central and eastern Connecticut that have the naturally occurring mineral pyrrhotite in it. When exposed to air or moisture, it can cause cracking

Under current federal tax law, taxpayers may deduct a casualty loss from their income if they have suffered a sudden loss due to fire, flood, theft, or other sudden and unusual causes. While pyrrhotite-related damage develops over time, Courtney and Larson have been seeking IRS guidance to allow a casualty deduction related to this longer-term damage, citing the precedent of IRS assistance to homeowners affected by corrosive Chinese drywall in 2010.

The new guidance, released November 22nd by the Treasury Department, approves their request for federal tax relief. Specifically, the guidance allows for the treatment of crumbling foundation-related repair costs as a “casualty loss” deduction from a taxpayer's taxable income. The change is effective immediately.

Congressman Courtney says at this point it is not known if the tax deduction applies for businesses or condos with this issue, but it does appear to allow people to make deductions on repairs in the past, “Let's say they fixed their house in 2015, okay, and didn't claim it, you know what I saw there I would interpret that that they would be able to file an amended return."

How far back you can go with the deduction remains the question. The biggest advice Congressmen Courtney and Larson shared was, for people with this issue looking for a tax deduction, they should definitely consult with a tax preparer.

Congressman Larson adds “The individuals and families in Connecticut with crumbling foundations have been experiencing an ongoing nightmare. While there is no one silver bullet solution to make up for the loss experienced by these homeowners, today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Treasury will provide at least some degree of relief for many of them. It is the first time that the federal government has acknowledged the unique harm Connecticut residents have suffered through no fault of their own. I’d like to thank the IRS, the Department of Treasury, the National Taxpayer Advocate, and especially all of the homeowners who have reached out to my office to share their stories and allowed me to tour their homes.”



Photo Credit: US Congressman Joe Courtney's office]]>
<![CDATA[Help is Coming for Some with Crumbling Foundations]]>Sun, 05 Nov 2017 21:32:38 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Progress_Made_for_Crumbling_Foundation_Issues.jpg

There is a measure of hope for people with crumbling foundations as they learn about the help headed their way.

“Just a little bit of relief that we haven’t seen in a long time,” Essy Piazza of Coventry, said.

Piazza was among those who attended an informational meeting at Ellington High School on Saturday.

Others say this is just the beginning to solve a significant problem.

After the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters spent years focusing on the crumbling concrete issue, the state recently passed a budget with tens of millions in grants for those affected.

"The problem is devastating. For most people this is the biggest investment they’ve ever made," Mayor Carolyn Mirek, South Windsor, said.

Also packed in the budget were tax assistance for homeowners and training for contractors working on basements.

On Saturday, people got up to speed about a $5 million pot to assist homeowners testing their concrete.

"Visual inspections are, will be reimbursed at $400," Pauline Yoder, interim municipal services director at the Capital Region Council of Governments, said.

Some called this assistance package a good start, but not enough.

Amanda Watkins was worried about who will be eligible for aid and that standards to diagnose the problem are not clear.

"I don’t want to give up hope right now and I certainly don’t want to back off of the responsibility on where it needs to be right now," Watkins said.

People also found out an advocacy group – the Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements – is teaming up with Trinity College to find a cheaper way to test concrete.

Also on the wish list: pushing the General Assembly during the next session to allow people to have more than a year to sue after an insurance company denies a foundation claim.

For more details on the funding, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[FEMA, Army Corps of Engineers Address Crumbling Foundations]]>Fri, 06 Oct 2017 14:26:29 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/EOC-MEETING-ON-CRUMBLING-FOUNDATIONS.jpg

Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday said officials from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have wrapped up a two-day visit to the state to evaluate pyrrhotite, the mineral suspected of causing concrete foundations to crack in the eastern part of Connecticut.

In August, several Connecticut homeowners whose homes were damaged because of foundations crumbling called for a federal investigation. State officials estimate up to 30,000 homeowners are affected by the problem.

Malloy said on Thursday that officials were in the state for the past two days to evaluate the mineral. Authorities were discussing with Connecticut lawmakers how they would lend their technical expertise to assist the state with the crumbling foundations issue. 

The federal team, which briefed state leaders, explained their visit was just to consult. Further assistance would have to be ordered by FEMA, or literally, an act of Congress.

That didn't discourage legislators about the visit.

"I think it's more than symbolic. I think it shows that there is a level of concern at the federal agencies," South Windsor State Representative Tom Delnicki said.

During their visit, the FEMA and Army Corp of Engineers experts met with homeowners and scientists. Their goal was to evaluate the current federal resources in the state to determine if more is needed to create future regulation.

Malloy said the group will be in contact with lawmakers at the end of the month to have a more "broad discussion of their findings."

"From the beginning, I’ve been very clear that I believe that we must have assistance from our federal partners to address this issue. I’m thankful that FEMA and the Army Corp of Engineers sent some of their best scientists to Connecticut to study this issue," Malloy said on Thursday.

In the meantime, Malloy said he asked the Army Corps of Engineer scientists to provide "short order" guidance on standards that can be implemented for both quarries and companies that manufacture concrete. 

The state and local government group working to tackle the concrete crisis was debriefed on the visit. It says the big takeaway is that more federal research is needed on how pyrrhotite, the naturally occurring mineral found in the crumbling basements, makes concrete crack. Plus, more research is needed on how to reduce the cost of fixing affected homes.

However, the group knows the main focus must be getting people money to defray the cost of replacing a basement, which can exceed $200,000 and is usually not covered by insurance. In all, the federal team visited five homes in north-central and eastern Connecticut Wednesday. So far, 581 homeowners have reported to the state that they have crumbling concrete.

Malloy also asked experts to determine a low-cost standardized test that Connecticut homeowners could use to help everyone better understand the scope of this problem to their property.

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<![CDATA[New Foundation for Vernon Condo After Concrete Crumbles]]>Fri, 29 Sep 2017 13:55:29 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Vernon+condos+crumbling+foundation.jpg

After more than a month of being hoisted seven feet up in the air, a set of eight attached condos in Vernon is almost back at ground level after work to address the crumbling foundation problem. 

The project was undertaken as condo owners grappled with the crumbling concrete crisis in north central and eastern Connecticut. 

The painstaking process included hammering out all the old concrete and pouring the new basement. 

The Lakeview Condo Association spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to lift the 221-foot, 336-ton building. 

This is one of the largest projects of its type that general contractor Don Childree is undertaking. 

He said that after people get over the amazement of seeing the engineering marvel, they don’t understand how or why all the concrete basements are failing. 

The problem has been traced to a naturally occurring mineral in concrete poured in this area of Connecticut from 1983 through as recently as 2013. 

The state says 570 homeowners have filed complaints and say they have this problem. Most insurance companies are not covering this, and so far, help from local, state, and federal government sources is all but a trickle. 



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Governor Addresses Crumbling Concrete Foundation Crisis in Budget Proposal ]]>Mon, 11 Sep 2017 09:22:47 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Governor+Malloy+budget.jpg

Gov. Dannel Malloy rolled out what he called his “sixth” proposed balanced budget Friday and it includes some assistance for homeowners suffering from the state’s crumbling concrete crisis. 

Hundreds of people whose basement walls are crumbling said they can’t wait much longer for help. 

Ron Marks, of Tolland, discovered his basement walls are cracking, he says due to the naturally occurring mineral pyrrhotite in the concrete when it was poured in 1985. Now he’s trying to figure out how to fix it. He said he filed an insurance claim with his insurance company and it was denied. 

Marks got some hope when Malloy announced his latest proposed budget plans to raise $10 million annually over the next six years through bonding, to remediate and research our state’s concrete crisis. 

Malloy calls it “(T)he first steps toward addressing the crumbling foundation problem.” 

Republican legislator Tom Delnicki, of South Windsor, told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters he is glad the governor is talking about foundations, however, “…the bottom line has to be a grant to victims, not a loan.” 

The Governor's proposal also calls for hiring an additional staff person to coordinate efforts to combat this concrete crisis. Yet this still has a long way to go before being approved, since the legislature has to sign off on this budget and there will likely be a lot of changes if, and before that happens.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. Senators Come Hear About Crumbling Concrete Problem]]>Thu, 14 Sep 2017 11:21:30 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Senators+Murphy+and+Blumenthal+at+Crumbling+Concrete+meeting+1200.jpg

There was standing-room only as both of Connecticut’s U.S. Senators came to northern Connecticut Wednesday to address the state’s crumbling concrete crisis. 

Some people actually had to stand outside the Tolland Fire Department Training Center and wait for the senators to speak with them. 

At this point, 556 people have filed complaints with the state, saying their basement walls are crumbling underneath their homes and businesses. 

Since the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters brought this problem to light two summers ago, the answers have been few. 

Homeowners learned most insurers have changed their policies so they don’t cover the problem. Most of the homeowners did not discover the issue until well after the 10-year statute of limitations for defective product claims. 

Beyond outlining what assistance they are trying to get from the federal and state governments, Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal took aim at many of the insurers. 

“They changed the policies. They didn’t do it by accident, they knew what they were doing,” Blumenthal said. 

Several people in the audience did criticize the senators, however, noting that it has been almost two years since they learned about this issue without any assistance arriving. 



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[US Attorney Will Not Investigate Crumbling Foundations]]>Mon, 14 Aug 2017 22:30:10 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/US_Attorney_Will_Not_Investigate_Crumbling_Foundations.jpg

For months Connecticut Citizens Against Crumbling Basements (CCACB) said it would ask the feds for help if it didn't get the assistance it wanted from the state.

Last month the group acted. The federal complaint it filed with the U.S. Attorney's Office, however, will not be investigated by that agency.

On Monday, CCACB learned the U.S. Attorney's Office will not take up the case. It said the group had insufficient materials to initiate a federal criminal proceeding. Instead, the U.S Attorney's Office suggested the group ask the FBI to start an investigation.

CCACB tells the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters it will ask the FBI to initiate an investigation in the very near future. It wants the federal government to look into its claim that the crumbling basements crisis grew for years in Connecticut without any state intervention, while insurers rewrote homeowner policies that do not cover basements that are slowly falling apart

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<![CDATA[Navy Seeks Tool to Detect Mineral in Crumbling Foundations]]>Sun, 30 Jul 2017 14:48:16 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundations-Generic.jpg

The U.S. Navy is working to develop a new high-tech gadget that can quickly identify whether a debilitating iron sulfide mineral exists in concrete, the same problem that's plaguing thousands of Connecticut homeowners with crumbling foundations.

The Navy began last year seeking small businesses that could invent a device to quickly detect the substance pyrrhotite in concrete. Three firms were recently selected.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat whose districts includes many of the affected towns, says the Navy's efforts have been independent of the state's and the congressional delegation's efforts to help the homeowners. He says the Navy is a large consumer of concrete and wanted to make sure its structures are sound.

He says the device could be helpful in getting a better handle on Connecticut's problem. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Lawmakers Seek Fund to Help Crumbling Foundation Homeowners]]>Sun, 23 Jul 2017 14:01:35 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundations-Generic.jpg

Connecticut may not have a deal on a new state budget, but one key senator says there's agreement on creating a fund to help thousands of homeowners whose concrete foundations are crumbling.

Democratic Sen. Cathy Osten, a co-chair of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee, says she's hoping about $60 million will be set aside, enough to help homeowners with the most immediate problems.

She says a number of ideas for financing that account are still being considered, including a surcharge on all Connecticut residents' home insurance policies.

The founder of the Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements says the $60 million won't help everyone whose foundations are cracking and crumbling due to a mineral. But he says it could help those in the greatest need.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Complaint Asks Feds to Investigate Crumbling Foundations]]>Tue, 15 Aug 2017 15:36:19 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-foundations-south-windsor.jpg

Several Connecticut homeowners whose homes have been damaged because the foundations are crumbling are calling for a federal investigation into the problem.

Many of the homeowners who live in northeastern Connecticut have gathered today at the federal building in Hartford and filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, asking for a federal investigation into the crumbling foundation crisis.

State officials estimate around 30,000 homeowners affected by the problem.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters broke the story about the crumbling foundation crisis two years ago and thousands of homeowners have come forward since.

The matter also garnered the attention of state lawmakers.

The state Senate took up a bill that would have created an assistance fund to help affected homeowners, but it made it no further than a committee.

A study determined that a mineral called pyrrhotite in the concrete causes foundations to crack and crumble years after being poured and a bill in the state House of Representatives would have required concrete companies to test for pyrrhotite. That bill never made it to a vote on the house floor.

Several homeowners are suing around two dozen insurance companies because they were told the damage won’t be covered unless their homes collapse.

Homeowners said they’re getting frustrated because they’re not getting much help from the state and hope the federal government can assist them.

They also want answers about who knew about the problem and why nothing was done.

The last statement from the attorney for JJ Mottes is that the company is now out of business. 

The last full statement released to NBC Connecticut in August 2016 read:

“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. 

“Certainly, those homes with damage need to be remedied, but a comprehensive solution is called for - one that helps those who are not financially capable of helping themselves, guards against predators of all kinds and eases the burden placed on the real estate market. We believe that effective lower cost preventive remedial actions exist, that appropriate independent authorities can and should identify these techniques, and this information needs to be widely shared and adopted.” – John Patton, spokesman, The Joseph J. Mottes Company.




Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Home Buyers Say Some Sellers May Be Hiding Foundation Issues]]>Tue, 06 Jun 2017 04:47:15 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-foundations-south-windsor.jpg

"Buyers Beware" is the message some home buyers are sharing after they claim some sellers are hiding crumbling foundation issues.

Kristen Cole thought she'd found the perfect place for her family in South Windsor. But 18 months after buying her home, she noticed a growing crack in her basement wall.

After hiring a structural engineer to take a look, she found that she had a crumbling foundation like, she soon realized, many of her neighbors on the cul-de-sac.

"When I got the report, it was devastating," Cole recalled. "It was devastating."

Some of her South Windsor neighbors had already replaced their basement walls.

Cole provided NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters with the state-mandated seller's disclosure form for her home. In the "foundation" section, the previous owner indicated they had, "some cracks sealed and waterproofing done," as a "preventive measure".

"I had no reason to believe there was an issue with my foundation," Cole said.

Cole hired a neighbor to dig out the foundation and found an enormous crack just a few inches below grade.

General contractor, Don Childree, said any water barrier needs to protect the foundation from groundwater.

"Who would waterproof just above grade? It's not where your waterproofing goes. If you're building a house, your waterproofing goes below ground, not above grade," Childree said.

Vernon attorney Michael Kopsick does not represent Cole, but has represented several homeowners with crumbling foundations. Kopsick believes information about the concrete issue has been widely discussed in real estate circles in towns like South Windsor for at least a decade.

"If a broker has a understanding of an area-wide problem, or more specifically, a neighborhood problem, based on prior transactions and experience, I think they have a responsibility to probe the response they get from their seller," Kopsicksaid.

For the past two years, the Connecticut Association of Realtors website has included a "foundation advisory" because of the growing concrete crisis.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters spoke with the association's president, Michael Barbaro, about whether real estate agents have a duty to share what they know about foundation issues in a particular town or neighborhood.

"All we can do is advise people, urge them of their obligation to disclose. We certainly can't force them," Barbaro said.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters asked Kopsick who bears the ultimate responsibility for disclosing relevant information to a potential buyer.

"I think that's presently being litigated in a number of matters across the state," the attorney said.

Cole has filed a lawsuit against the seller of her house, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, who represented her and the seller, as well as, her specific agent and the home inspector individually.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reached out to the South Windsor ColdwellBanker office and the agent named in the complaint. They referred our inquiry to the corporate office in Boston, which provided a statement:

"We operate with integrity and strive to uphold the highest of ethical standards. We are defending ourselves in this matter. We will not comment further on pending litigation."

Cole said she just hopes to be able to recover the money to replace her foundation because she does not want to move her daughters again.

"A home cannot be bought, it must be made. We've made our home here, and I just want to make sure we can remain here," Cole said.

Kopsick said the adage "buyer beware" is more relevant now than it's ever been.

The attorney recommends a home buyer should:


  • • ask a lot of questions of the real estate agents and home inspector.
  • • verify the home inspector is qualified and carries insurance.
  • • get a copy of the inspection report, especially if there is a photo or any content that suggests there may be an issue with the foundation.





Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Homeowners, Officials Call for Crumbling Foundations Support]]>Mon, 22 May 2017 13:05:45 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/State_Releases_Final_Report_on_Crumbling_Foundations_1200x675_846490179799.jpg

Homeowners and local town officials from Eastern Connecticut are scheduled to come to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford Monday to urge lawmakers to pass a bill addressing the crumbling foundations issue.

In July 2015, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reported what would be the first in a prolonged investigation into crumbling foundations in northeastern Connecticut. Hundreds of homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties have been looking for help in the costly process of fixing their homes.

 Senate Bill 806 would establish a “Crumbling Foundation Assistance Fund” that would progivde affected homeowners with $150,000 or 75 percent of the cost to replace their foundation – whichever is less.

The money would come from insurance companies, contributing $12 for each insurance policy they write.

An amendment to the bill was adopted last week by the Senate and referred to the Senate committee on Finance, Revenue, and Bonding.

There’s also a possibility that homeowners could get tax relief from the federal government. That measure would need approval from the Internal Revenue Service.

A press conference is expected to take place in room 1B of the LOB at 10:15 a.m.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations Revealed in Several Commercial Buildings]]>Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:28:00 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundations-Generic.jpg

Since the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters broke the crumbling foundations story in July of 2015, the focus has been on the financial burden plaguing hundreds of homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties.

Now our investigation has revealed that several commercial buildings are showing signs of the concrete issue as well.

Glen Johnson has built his life around his Tolland auto repair business.

He put up the building nearly 30 years ago, but started noticing cracks in 2010 that have grown progressively worse over time.

"This whole section around the corner is so bad you could probably use screwdriver and pop that piece out of there," says Johnson.

A structural engineer has confirmed Glen has the same crumbling foundation issues shared by hundreds of homeowners across eastern Connecticut. As far as Glen is concerned, he has no choice but to keep moving forward.

"We have three guys in the shop full time, so my livelihood is their livelihood too. However we do it, I just can't stop my business and put a new building up, it can't happen that way. Somehow these guys need to keep getting a paycheck," says Johnson.

Beth Horr's dance studio sits on a crumbling foundation as well.

Over the years, she says she's invested countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars to build and improve her business step by step. Now, she's worried about what comes next.

"If they came in and said we have to leave the building... that would be hard," she says.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters also found telltale map cracking at the historic Somers Inn, now called the Black Horse Tavern. The owner tells the Troubleshooters he's aware of the issue, but has yet to do anything about it.

The question now is whether commercial property owners will be included in any program that provides money for crumbling concrete. Johnson and Horr are hopeful, but not optimistic.

"Is the State of Connecticut gonna help us? I don't know. If I could get some assistance; I'm not looking for a hand out, a new building for nothing, I'm willing to pay for it, but I need help getting that money," says Johnson.

"If I have to pay for this then all my funds would go and that's a huge problem," says Horr.

We reached out to state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who say they don't think commercial properties will be included in the proposed Senate Bill 806, that would create a "Crumbling Foundations Assistance Fund". They would likely tackle that aspect the problem in the 2018 legislative session.

Meanwhile, elected officials in several eastern Connecticut towns have expressed concern about some of their municipal buildings. They say none of the buildings is showing signs of deterioration, but we confirmed with the general contractor of at least three town buildings built in the early 2000s that the concrete used is from the same supplier the state says is the likely source of the foundation problem.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations Bill Making Headway at Legislature]]>Fri, 17 Mar 2017 22:14:29 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundation.jpg

Homeowners have begged the state for assistance in fixing their crumbling foundations. There are now more details about a wide ranging bill that could help.It will use grants, loans, and other relief--mostly paid for by taxpayers. The bill made it out of a Senate committee with bipartisan support.

The 37 page bill will likely go through a lot more changes if it passes. But legislators appear pretty confident help is on the way. Most who spoke at a news conference come from the north central part of the state, where crumbling foundations have become a scourge for towns, and homeowners.

Senator Tony Guglielmo remarked, “The thing that was good about it we had people from Stamford, from New Haven, who voted with us.”

The bill sets up a crumbling foundations fund to give homeowners grants of $150,000, or 75 percent of their repair cost…to help make them whole again.

Senator Tim Larson said, “The initial money would be a grant…that other 25 percent we're thinking there'd be low interest loans that would be available through a number of different programs”

The bill proposes bringing money into the crumbling foundations fund by putting a $12 annual surcharge on every residential home, and renter’s insurance policy in our state. Legislators say they will also ask the state to get the crumbling foundations fund started with $35 million in seed money.

Representative Tim Ackert said he is not sure how well that will go over.

They admit they don’t know how well that will go over, “You hear legislators say why is it government's role to fix this? Because we had some knowledge of it, and we didn't move.”

Linda Tofolowsky was one of the first people to sound the alarm years ago about crumbling foundations in 2003. She said this is a strong start to solving the crumbling foundations issue, and she is proud of our state government.

“I don't care what side of the aisle you're from, they're working together as a team, and they're doing a good job.”

The plan, not spelled out in this bill, is to help the people in most dire need first. The hope, is that it will also bring a lot of people out of the woodwork who have so far been silent about their crumbling foundations.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Governor Proposes Loan Program for Crumbling Foundations]]>Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:56:12 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundation.jpg

Gov. Dannel Malloy is proposing legislation to help residents of northeastern Connecticut whose home foundations are crumbling. It includes a state program that will assist homeowners who would otherwise have difficulty getting a loan to repair their properties. 

“Homeowners in the region are being severely impacted by what appears to be a natural disaster and are understandably seeking any bit of relief they can to mitigate this problem,” Malloy said in a statement. “This is a difficult time for the families whose most valuable assets are at risk. This proposal does not represent the totality of the state’s assistance for affected homeowners, but it’s one piece of our joint efforts with local, federal, and private sector partners to provide some amount of respite for this serious situation.” 

Malloy’s proposal includes creating the Collapsing Foundation Interest Rate Reduction program. 

The Connecticut Department of Housing would administer the program, providing interest rate subsidies for qualifying loans. 

Participating municipalities, through the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority, would be able to borrow funds at lower costs with a state guarantee to help them raise funds for the development and deployment of financial assistance, including through credit enhancements, loan guarantees, and procurement of construction equipment, according to Malloy. 

The governor is also proposing to allow municipalities to waive the fees associated with building permit applications for homeowners facing this problem. 

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first began reporting on the problem in July 2015. 

Over the past year and a half, hundreds of homeowners across Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties have discovered they have crumbling foundations and the number of homeowners affected, but the problem might be much larger.  

Malloy’s office said the legislation was prompted by the large number of homes in the region that have suffered damage due to what appears to be the result of a natural disaster – specifically the reaction of a naturally occurring mineral, pyrrhotite, to oxygen and water. 

The best available solution known at this time for affected homes is a complete replacement of the foundation, which could cost roughly $75,000 to $150,000, depending on the size of the house. 

Last month, Malloy approved the release of $5 million in state funding to assist potentially affected homeowners with the cost of testing for the deterioration. Under that program, homeowners are eligible for a 50 percent reimbursement – up to $2,000 – for the testing of two core samples from the foundation. Homeowners who have visual testing conducted by a licensed professional engineer are eligible for a 100 percent reimbursement – up to $400. The Capitol Region Council of Governments is administering the funding and will be providing reimbursement to homeowners. More information for homeowners interested in seeking reimbursements under this program will be announced in the coming weeks, according to Malloy, and it is expected that the testing will help to better inform federal agencies about the scope of the situation and garner support for additional aid. 

The governor’s legislation has been referred to the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee. 

Everyone 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. 

The last statement from the attorney for JJ Mottes is that the company is now out of business. 

The last full statement released to NBC Connecticut in August 2016 read:

“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. 

“Certainly, those homes with damage need to be remedied, but a comprehensive solution is called for - one that helps those who are not financially capable of helping themselves, guards against predators of all kinds and eases the burden placed on the real estate market. We believe that effective lower cost preventive remedial actions exist, that appropriate independent authorities can and should identify these techniques, and this information needs to be widely shared and adopted.” – John Patton, spokesman, The Joseph J. Mottes Company.  



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Experts Discuss Proposed Crumbling Foundations Legislation ]]>Sun, 29 Jan 2017 11:23:16 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/CRUMBLING-FOUNDATIONS-MEETING.jpg

A conversation first sparked by the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters in July 2015 about homeowners in northeastern Connecticut dealing with crumbling foundations, continues now in 2017. Lawmakers and experts gathered in Vernon on Saturday to discuss proposed legislation to hopefully find a fix.

“That was devastating,” said Leo Vezina of Willington, who had to replace his foundation after severe cracks were found. “My wife cried for two days and we didn’t know what to do,” he said.

The Governor’s office has said that more than 34,000 homes may be affected by crumbling foundations, with a total cost to fix the problems up to $1 billion.

“It’s sad. It’s scary,” said Sheila Cyr of Tolland. She said she received an estimate of $234,000 to replace her failing foundation. “Our biggest concern is getting this taken care of,” she said.

Hundreds of people gathered at Vernon Center Middle School discussing how crumbling foundations may affect health, pending litigation and more.

“It’s definitely more promising than last year and I’m a little more impressed,” said Cyr.

Members of the Public Safety committee, which was behind the meeting, had agreed to draft what is known as an omnibus bill. It could consolidate multiple bills on crumbling foundations into one. Homeowners would only need to testify at one public hearing.

Gov. Dannel Malloy recently announced plans for $5 million in state funding to go toward conducting foundation testing for homes in northeastern Connecticut.

A number of homes in the area have suffered from crumbling foundations - what a study concluded is the result of a mineral called pyrrhotite in the concrete that causes foundations to crack and crumble years after being poured. 



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[$5M in State Funding to Test Homes for Crumbling Foundations]]>Mon, 23 Jan 2017 12:27:53 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Lawmakers_Say_Crumbling_Foundations_Top_Priority_1200x675_615702595692.jpg

Gov. Dannel Malloy has announced plans for $5 million in state funding to go toward conducting foundation testing for homes in northeastern Connecticut.

The topic will be placed on the agenda of a meeting of the State Bond Commission.

A number of homes in the area have suffered from crumbling foundations – what a study concluded is the result of a mineral called pyrrohtite in the concrete that causes foundations to crack and crumble years after being poured.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first began reporting on the problem in July 2015.

The state funding will go toward testing and visual inspections of foundations to better understand the problem and offset the cost of testing for homeowners.

The Connecticut Department of Housing is also planning to allocate $1 million in federal grant funding to help property owners with the cost.

“It is vital that local, state, and federal government – along with private sector partners – work together to both understand the scope of this problem, and to help those whose homes are affected,” Malloy said in a release. “Providing financial assistance for the testing of foundations in these communities is a logical first step. It will help us better inform our federal partners about the scope of this situation and garner their support for additional aide.”

Under the governor’s plan, homeowners are eligible for up to $2,000 back for testing of two core samples within their home. Homeowners will also be eligible for up to $400 back for visual testing by a professional engineer. Applicants must have homes built in or after 1983 and be within a 20-mile radius of JJ Mottes Concrete Company in Stafford Springs.

Mottes has been at the center of the state’s investigation.

Over the past year and a half, 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.

An attorney for JJ Mottes tells the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters the company has gone out of business.

The last full statement released to NBC Connecticut in August 2016 read:

“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.

“Certainly, those homes with damage need to be remedied, but a comprehensive solution is called for - one that helps those who are not financially capable of helping themselves, guards against predators of all kinds and eases the burden placed on the real estate market. We believe that effective lower cost preventive remedial actions exist, that appropriate independent authorities can and should identify these techniques, and this information needs to be widely shared and adopted.” – John Patton, spokesman, The Joseph J. Mottes Company

The governor is working with the Capitol Region Council of Governments to administer the funding to homeowners. 

Mottes has been at the center of the state’s investigation.  

 

 

Over the past year and a half, 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.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Head of Crumbling Foundations Coalition Calls For Federal Investigation ]]>Wed, 11 Jan 2017 23:47:20 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tim-Heim.jpg

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he'll propose a state-funded program to test houses in eastern Connecticut to get a better handle on how many homeowners are experiencing failing foundations.

"We need more people to come forward," Malloy told NBC Connecticut on Wednesday night.

But Tim Heim, head of CT Coalition Against Crumbling Basements, said that is not enough and is calling for a federal investigation into crumbling foundations.

Heim said he is unsatisfied with the state investigation and wants to know what state, town and insurance companies knew about crumbling foundations

"We don’t need testing," Heim told NBC Connecticut. "We need emergency funding for the victims today."

Malloy said Wednesday that having a more accurate count could help the state in persuading the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide financial assistance to help fix what's considered to be a naturally occurring event.

He also told NBC Connecticut that federal government should play a part in fixing homes. 

"I think the state needs to play a role but I also think the municipal government needs to play a role and really what I think is the federal government should play a much larger role," Malloy said.

Hundreds of eastern Connecticut homeowners have filed complaints about crumbling foundations. The problem has been traced to a quarry that produced a concrete mix containing an iron sulfide mineral that has apparently reacted with oxygen and water. The reaction has led to severe cracks in foundations that are very expensive to repair.

Malloy is expected to unveil his new two-year budget Feb. 8.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations Report Has No Plan for Financial Help]]>Wed, 04 Jan 2017 08:37:22 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundations-Generic1.jpg

The state Department of Consumer Protection has released its final report into the costly problem of concrete home foundations that have been crumbling. While the report into the 18-month investigation provides a lot of information on the problem, it provides no indication or suggestion about a plan to provide financial relief to hundreds of homeowners struggling with the problem. 

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters broke the story in July 2015 about homeowners dealing with crumbling foundations and several agencies have been involved in the investigation into the problem plaguing hundreds of homeowners, if not more. 

The state Department Of Consumer Protection released a 10-page summary of the work the state performed over the past 18 months and it confirms what the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reported in the summer of 2015, including that the presence of a naturally occurring mineral called pyrrhotite is necessary to cause a foundation to fail. 

When that mineral is exposed to water and air, it causes an oxidation process that begins the deterioration. 

State officials also now confirm that homes built as recently as 2010 have shown signs of crumbling concrete and experts expect the problem will begin to materialize in more newer homes as time passes. 

Construction experts have said the problem cannot be fixed and all the concrete must be replaced, which can cost $100,000 or more. 

So far, 452 homeowners in 35 towns have filed complaints with DCP. 

The new report also details the attorney general's conclusion that there's not enough evidence for the state to pursue financial relief under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act against the company that made the problematic concrete. 

Over the past 18 months, DCP interviewed hundreds of people, including homeowners who have crumbling foundations, contractors, structural engineers and concrete company managers. 

Last spring the legislature passed Public Act 1645, which preserves the confidentiality of any homeowner who comes forward and provides some potential tax relief by mandating local cities and towns to reassess property at a homeowners' request. 

What's missing from the newly released report is any suggestion or plan for providing the money homeowners need to get their foundations replaced. 

"I know that our homes are often our biggest financial asset and the property closest to our hearts and our hope is to provide the information needed to get homeowners the relief they deserve," Jonathan Harris, the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 

Read the report here.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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<![CDATA[Mineral a ‘Contributing Factor’ to Crumbling Foundations: AG]]>Fri, 04 Nov 2016 11:44:23 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundation+sept+10.jpg

The attorney general has been looking into the issue of crumbling home foundations that is plaguing hundreds of homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties and released a scientific report Friday that says the mineral pyrrhotite is a “contributing factor in the deterioration of the concrete.” 

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

Contractors have said the crumbling foundation problem cannot be fixed and homeowners are forced to instead replace the entire foundation at a cost of $100,000 and up. Insurers to this point have denied most of the claims. 

Attorney General George Jepsen said in a letter Friday to Gov. Dannel Malloy that consumer protection laws don’t provide broad-based relief for homeowners and state law has never prohibited using pyrrhotite in residential foundations. 

Jepsen went on to say that the report released today is limited to the investigation scientific experts did into the crumbling concrete and does not address or resolve questions, including the precise amount of pyrrhotite in concrete that leads to deterioration, other factors that might lead to some foundations deteriorating and not others or the number of homes that could be affected.

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<![CDATA[Governor Calls on FEMA to Help With Crumbling Foundations]]>Wed, 19 Oct 2016 15:33:35 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Bill_Passes_to_Help_Crumbling_Foundations_1200x675_679546435975.jpg

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have learned that Gov. Dan Malloy is requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency get involved with the crumbling foundation problem in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties. 

In a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Malloy asks the agency to establish a field office in northeastern Connecticut to conduct a preliminary damage assessment to determine the extent and impact of what he describes as approximately 34,000 homes in the area with foundations that could be at risk of crumbling and actually collapsing. 

The governor explains that potentially tens of thousands of Connecticut residents are at risk. He notes that while the state, municipalities and a coalition of insurance companies have been collaborating on a strategy to address this problem, federal assistance and the expertise of FEMA are critical. 

In April 2016, the state reached out to FEMA, but at the time the agency felt the crumbling foundation issue did not appear to constitute an emergency or major disaster. 

Since that time, a state investigation concluded what the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reported nearly a year earlier, that a chemical reaction involving a naturally-occurring mineral called pyrrhotite causes the in deterioration. Now the state believes this is a natural disaster which will require assistance from FEMA to solve what could be a $1 billion problem. 

Governor Malloy, in collaboration with Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, who has undertaken a leading role on this issue on behalf of the administration, continues to work with the various stakeholders involved in this issue – including homeowners, municipal and state officials, the state’s federal delegation, and the insurance industry on this problem. 

“While none of us can fully grasp the full weight this disaster has placed upon these homeowners, it is vital that we all come together to assist them,” Malloy wrote. 

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<![CDATA[Enfield Passes Measure to Assist With Crumbling Foundations]]>Mon, 17 Oct 2016 22:29:42 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundation-Generic3.jpg

Ken Maynard's Enfield home, built in 1984, is crumbling beneath him. At night he can hear the pops. The cracks are spreading and widening. He calls it a cancer to his foundation.

"This might be the last year for the chimney. Next year we might have to take the chimney down. The base is crumbling," said Maynard.

A couple years ago, Maynard says he noticed the cracks and hired a company who told him they could fix it for $35,000. Maynard says he paid the company but that it didn't stop the cracks.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters broke the story about crumbling foundations last year and that led to a multi-agency state investigation. Since then, hundreds of homeowners across Hartford, Tolland, and Windham counties have discovered they have crumbling foundations.

Virtually all claims have been denied by insurance companies. Maynard says his claim was denied too and that to replace the foundation, it will cost $183,000.

The Enfield Town Council allowed those like Maynard to reassess their home and lower their tax liability. Maynard says his home, once worth $200,000, is now worth about $10,000.

On Monday night, councilors took another step to try and ease the financial burden by voting unanimously to waive building permit fees for those repairing or replacing foundations.

South Windsor and Vernon have taken similar action.

"It's not the homeowner's fault. It's not the town's fault. But to be that partner with a homeowner and help in a very small way financially, to help them recover from this situation," said Mayor Scott Kaupin.

The mayor says the permit saves affected homeowners a few thousand dollars, but they're hoping to do more. Kaupin says they're looking to get the Planning & Zoning Commission involved. Current regulations allow temporary housing and storage on a homeowner's property if there's a house fire. He says he'd like to see that regulation extended to those repairing or replacing foundations.

In addition to that, the mayor says they need to press officials on the crumbling foundations.

"We have to lobby as well our state leaders, our federal leaders and be a voice of the residents that are affected," said Kaupin.

Maynard says he'd like to see more homeowners with crumbling foundations step forward and register with the state.

Homeowners looking for more information about crumbling foundations can check out previous stories by the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters and visit the Department of Consumer Protection website.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Former Employees Say Concrete Company's Practices Contributed to Crumbling Foundations]]>Sat, 13 Aug 2016 09:25:28 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jjmottes.jpg

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.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Lawmakers Write to Insurers About Crumbling Foundations]]>Tue, 09 Aug 2016 15:57:20 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/photo+of+crumbling+foundation+1200.jpg

Several members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation have sent letters to Connecticut insurers regarding the proposal by the State of Connecticut to provide relief to homeowners with crumbling foundations in Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties.

In June, the Troubleshooters broke the story of the $52.5 million dollar insurance pool the State of Connecticut negotiated with several insurance companies, including Travelers and The Hartford.

Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Representative John Larson (CT-01) met last month with three of the largest insurers in the affected area, Liberty Mutual, State Farm and All State, to urge their participation in the program.

In addition to sending a letter to these companies urging them join, the members sent letters to other insurers operating in the region that have not yet committed to the program.

The members also sent a separate letter to the Hartford and Travelers thanking them for joining the effort.

In their letters, the members state that: “The urgency of this problem is clear. Failure to enact a workable plan to provide relief will have a lasting impact not just on homeowners and communities, but on all those connected to the housing market, including insurers. We hope that your company will be a constructive and collaborative part of making this plan work in order to provide needed relief to your customers, their neighbors, and our communities.

“We are deeply disappointed that other insurers operating in the region, including your company, have not yet committed to being a part of this plan” and that “given that this plan is so far the only realistic option put forward that provides relief outside of litigation, we urge to you take seriously the devastating consequences of allowing this effort to falter.”

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said: "I'm grateful to our federal delegation members for their strong support and advocacy on behalf of this program. This problem goes beyond individual homeowners and represents a public policy problem for our state. This program obviously offers relief to families and communities, but it is also in the interests of insurance companies to participate.

It offers them benefits and protections – including caps on financial exposure and release from the uncertainties of existing and potential litigation by homeowners who participate, as well from any claims the Department of Insurance may have for unfair insurance practices. I'm grateful to those few companies who have indicated their willingness as good corporate citizens to participate, but I would urge their peers to join in this effort to help Connecticut homeowners in desperate need of assistance."

The Troubleshooters reached out to Liberty Mutual, State Farm and All State for comment about the insurance pool.

Liberty Mutual responded:

“We have thoughtfully considered the program and have decided not to participate. Liberty Mutual empathizes with everyone impacted by crumbling foundations due to defective concrete. We review and adjust each claim on its own merits.”

Allstate responded with this statement:

“Allstate provides Connecticut consumers access to a broad range of innovative insurance products. We remain committed to ensuring our ability to offer an affordable homeowners product to all of our customers, as well as our ability to fulfill our promise to help customers recover from unexpected losses. Covering losses for which there is no coverage under the policy and for which premium was not collected could create the need to increase premiums, which would impact all customers throughout the state. In light of the general belief that the issue with the concrete is due to defective concrete and/or the improper mixing and installation of the concrete, we believe that the focus should be on the concrete manufacturer and the contractors involved in its installation”

State Farm chose not to comment.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[State Won't Sue Companies Over Crumbling Foundations]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:36:49 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Bill_Passes_to_Help_Crumbling_Foundations_1200x675_679546435975.jpg

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have learned the state does not plan to pursue legal action against the companies at the center of the crumbling foundation issue.

In a letter from Attorney General George Jepsen to Governor Dannel Malloy and Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris, the AG lays out several reasons why his office does not plan to pursue any claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act against the Joseph J. Mottes Company or Becker's Construction.

Over the past several months, the state has issued several investigative demands of those companies and others that have knowledge of the concrete issues in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties.

In the letter, the Attorney General writes "we do not anticipate that our investigation is likely to provide a sufficient basis to support viable and worthwhile claims for violations of Connecticut consumer protection laws. As a result, CUTPA claims should not be relied upon as a source of significant financial relief for the homeowners afflicted by crumbling foundations."

The Troubleshooters investigation brought the crumbling foundations problem to light last July and was the catalyst for the state to launch its own multi-agency investigation into the issue.

In June, NBC Connecticut broke the news that the state has negotiated with several large insurance companies to create a $52.5 million pool of money to provide homeowners with up to 90-percent of the cost of replacing their concrete foundations. To date, only four companies have agreed to take part, and the state says several more need to agree to join the program for it to become viable.

Construction experts say the concrete is slowly deteriorating and must be replaced at a cost of $100,000 and up.

"While my office's investigation is not yet complete, these unusual circumstances require that I make this interim report available to the public and to policymakers so that their attention can be focused most productively and important decisions made with all available knowledge. In all instances - and particularly when so many families have so much at stake - it is my responsibility to give an honest and transparent assessment of the law. In this case, I do not anticipate that evidence developed through our investigation would support a viable legal claim by the state against any party under the consumer protection authority available to me - the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, or CUTPA," Jepsen said in a statement to NBC Connecticut.

"Nevertheless, I remain committed to bringing some relief to the situation by working towards implementing an insurance program to provide affected homeowners some financial assistance. Many have expressed frustration about insurance companies’ conduct in denying claims, including by filing lawsuits against them. My investigation did not encompass insurers’ actions relating to crumbling concrete - the authority to conduct such an insurance investigation does not rest in my office - but we will continue our attempts to engage insurance companies in discussions to explain why their participation in this voluntary assistance program is in their interests and the interests of their policyholders and our affected communities," Jepsen said in the statement.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the companies at the center of the investigation. John Patton, spokesman for the J.J. Mottes Company, told the Troubleshooters in a statement:

“As we have stated for months now, we support an unbiased and thorough investigation of all of these foundation issues so homeowners can get the answers they deserve. The extensive media and governmental scrutiny has led to another issue arising – in addition to the homes affected by damage, there are now large numbers of homeowners and potential home buyers who do not have problems but are being conditioned to believe they could. Certainly those homes with damage need to be remedied, but a comprehensive solution is called for - one that will assist those who are not financially capable of helping themselves, one that guards against predators of all kinds and one that helps to ease the burden that has been placed on the real estate market. We believe that effective low cost preventive remedial actions exist, that appropriate independent authorities can and should identify these techniques, and that this information needs to be widely shared and adopted."

To date, 235 Connecticut homeowners have filed complaints regarding crumbling concrete with the Department of Consumer Protection.

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.

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<![CDATA[Foundation Exclusive Insurance Pool Rollout]]>Fri, 01 Jul 2016 13:41:58 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Foundation_Exclusive_Insurance_Pool_Rollout_1200x675_716476995836.jpg]]><![CDATA[Deal Could Help Homeowners Pay to Fix Crumbling Foundations]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:39:38 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Lawmakers_Say_Crumbling_Foundations_Top_Priority_1200x675_615702595692.jpg

Connecticut has negotiated a deal with several insurance companies to create a pool of more than $50 million to help homeowners affected by crumbling foundations, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have learned.

The program could provide affected homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties with up to 90-percent of the cost of replacing the damaged foundations beneath their homes.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen acknowledged the negotiations, but released few details about the program on Wednesday.

"There has been a significant negotiation over the course of the last several months that would provide substantial relief to affected homeowners, victims of the so-called crumbling foundations," Jepsen said.

Governor Dannel Malloy told NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that he has been directly involved in the negotiations with insurers.

"This is not going to make everybody perfectly happy because there's not a solution to do that, but it will go a greater distance than I think folks thought was possible," Malloy said.

Willington's Tim Heim, who's leading the coalition of homeowners with crumbling concrete, remains skeptical.

"If I'm offered 50, 60, 70 percent, that won't work for me! And I'll let six jurors decide," said Heim.

There is a major obstacle in making the money available. According to Jepsen, only four of 29 insurance companies that write homeowners policies in the affected Connecticut towns have agreed to take part.

"I applaud those insurance companies who have expressed an willingness to be civic minded and help out, but I'm hoping that homeowners can contact their insurance companies and urge them to take part in such a program," Jepsen said.

The timing and ultimate fate of the program will largely depend on whether those additional companies agree to participate.

Sandra Miller had to move out of her Stafford home after a structural engineer deemed it too dangerous to live in.

"For any CEO of an insurance company sitting back debating what's the right thing to do, dig into your heart and think about those of us going through this," Miller said.

State Insurance Commissioner Katie Wade said she has been working to bring insurers to the table and they've had productive discussions.

Sources told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that homeowners will only be eligible for the program if their insurance company signs on. Meaning, even if enough companies come forward, some people who are dealing with a crumbling foundation are likely to be left out.

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<![CDATA[State Insurance Commissioner Attends Foundations Meeting]]>Wed, 01 Jun 2016 22:26:04 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/IMG_56411.JPG

People showed up a meeting in South Windsor to learn what's being done about crumbling home foundations.

A state investigation has concluded the problems are all linked to a mineral in the concrete called pyrrhotite.

“We’re talking about something that is devastating people’s lives, destroying the value of their homes, and their property,” said South Windsor's mayor Tom Delnicki.

Wednesday included the first time State Insurance Commissioner Katherine Wade met with homeowners at one of these events.

Her department handles people who are fighting their insurance companies.

“We have only received a handful of complaints,” said Wade.

Wednesday’s meeting sent a message far beyond the room.

Leaders urged people who suspect their foundation is in trouble to file a complaint with the state Department of Consumer Protection.

As of Wednesday night, 223 people have done that.

State leaders said the more people who are registered will help with the investigation into the problem and a possible solution.

“Not knowing if this is a ten million dollar problem or 100 million dollar problem, it’s hard. But I think we should do something at the state level,” said State Sen. Timothy Larson, the majority whip.

A state investigation is trying to figure out, besides the mineral, what else might possibly be causing this issue.

The results are expected in the fall.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Companies Stop Sales of Material Linked to Foundation Issues]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 17:11:28 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling+Foundation+Generic2.jpg

Two companies at the center of a state investigation into crumbling foundations have signed an agreement with the state to stop selling materials or products for residential foundations containing aggregate from Becker's Quarry in Willington until June 30, 2017.

The two companies, J.J. Mottes Company, in Stafford Springs, and Becker Construction, in Willington, have acknowledged for the first time that, pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral, may be a contributing factor to the crumbling foundation problem in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties.

The state launched a multi-agency investigation after the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters brought the failing foundations problem to light last July.

Construction experts say there is no fix for the foundation problem and that all the concrete must be replaced, at a cost of $150,000 or higher for each home.

The state Department of Consumer Protection has received complaints from 220 homeowners, but construction experts estimate that thousands of homes across eastern Connecticut might be impacted by the faulty concrete.

"We believe there is now sufficient evidence to conclude that significant levels of the mineral pyrrhotite in stone aggregate used in the production of concrete is a substantial contributing factor to the crumbling foundations experienced by some homeowners in eastern Connecticut," Attorney General George Jepsen told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters. "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 in complete."

J.J. Mottes and Becker Construction are reasserting their position that the problems with these foundations are the result of faulty installation.

In a letter to the Attorney General and Consumer Protection, Mottes and Becker state they have "independently conducted their own investigation as to the claims of concrete foundation deterioration and have reason to believe that numerous installation and environmental factors caused or otherwise contributed to residential concrete foundation deterioration." They contend they have "not seen any evidence that any residential concrete foundation deterioration was caused by their products." The letter argues that phyrrhotite is a common mineral in Connecticut. They believe its "mere presence" is not the cause of foundations deteriorating, but may become reactive with other elements, like water, under certain installations and environmental conditions.

In addition, Mottes and Becker "believe that exterior waterproofing of foundations will protect residential concrete foundations from deterioration, even those containing phyrrhotite."

The state investigation continues into other factors that may contribute to the failing concrete and what possible financial remedies are available for the struggling homeowners.

The J.J. Mottes Company released the following statement:

The “While the state’s investigation of the causes of the failing concrete foundations continues, the Joseph J. Mottes Company and Becker Construction have decided – as a good faith measure and with the goal of finding answers homeowners deserve –to voluntarily join with the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and agree to suspend sales of aggregate or concrete for residential home builds through June 30, 2017.  We continue to believe this is an issue of improper installation and not materials – findings which were proven in our only Connecticut court case involving a failed foundation, the Tofolowsky decision of 2003 – and we have always cooperated with the state and will continue to do so in the hope of finding sustainable and meaningful solutions for the homeowners and future homeowners.” – John Patton, spokesman for the Joseph J. Mottes Company, said in a statement.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Lawmakers Pass Bill to Help With Crumbling Foundations]]>Wed, 04 May 2016 20:39:28 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundations-Generic1.jpg

State lawmakers are taking action to try to help hundreds of homeowners struggling with crumbling foundations.

Late Tuesday night, the Senate unanimously approved House Bill 5180, which will provide homeowners in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties a measure of relief, while they grapple with this financially devastating problem.

Last July, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first uncovered an issue that's plaguing hundreds of homeowners across eastern Connecticut.

Their foundations are crumbling beneath them and experts said there's no fix. The only remedy is replacing the concrete at a cost of $150,000 and up.

The bill looks to give the homeowners short term relief by requiring local towns to revalue homes with foundation problems. That could save owners thousands in taxes while they wait for a permanent solution.

The bill also requires the state keep any records related to the failing foundations confidential for at least seven years.

According to State Senator Cathy Osten, that's the key to getting reluctant homeowners to register with the state and set the wheels in motion for a long-term financial solution.

"We need to have the real numbers where the problems are. Anecdotally, we think about 2000 homes that have crumbling foundations yet we only have about 200 homeowners who've come forward," said Osten.

House Bill 5180 also establishes increased record keeping related to newly poured concrete foundations moving forward.

Now, the bill move on to the Governor's desk. If he signs it into law, most of the provisions in the measure would take effect July 1.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[State Officials Discuss Crumbling Foundations With South Windsor Homeowners]]>Tue, 12 Apr 2016 15:39:27 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/photo+of+crumbling+foundation+1200.jpg

Crippled by crumbling foundations, first-time homeowners in South Windsor heard first-hand on Monday from officials who are searching for ways to fix a problem that is impacting hundreds, if not thousands, of homeowners across the state. 

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first broke the story in July about foundations crumbling at homes in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties. 

Town and state officials, as well as affected homeowners, attended the meeting at South Windsor Town Hall on Monday night, where lawmakers outlined solutions and the Department of Consumer Protection provided information on their investigation. 

Jonathan Harris, the commissioner of the DCP, told the crowd that the state cannot come up with a perfect plan without first knowing how big the problem is. 

“You’re trying to find answers at the same time you’re trying to find solutions,” Harris said. “You’re trying to figure out funding at the same time you’re trying to figure out causation and scope.” 

As of last week, the DCP had received 181 complaints, Harris said. They know more homeowners are out there, but many are concerned about confidentiality. 

“They’re afraid of their mortgages. They’re afraid of insurance companies coming in and denying coverage,” Sen. Tim Larson (D-East Hartford) said. 

The state legislature is working on a couple of bills to address confidentiality concerns and quality control, but the big question for homeowners is money. 

“It’s very expensive,” Lisa Martin, of South Windsor, said. “I don’t even know what percentage, but it would break me to fix it without any type of aid.” 

Getting federal aid will not be easy.

Lawmakers told the crowd that FEMA requires 582 homes to be deemed uninhabitable due to foundation damage to quality. To see if they are anywhere close to that number, officials urged affected homeowners to file complaints with the state. 

South Windsor set up a committee specifically to deal with crumbling foundations. They hope to have a public forum on the topic in May. 

Preliminary results from the state’s investigation are expected sometime in April.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Senator Wants Feds Involved in Crumbling Foundations Issue]]>Thu, 24 Mar 2016 08:58:27 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling-Foundations-Generic.jpg

State Senator Cathy Osten is looking to get the federal government involved in what she describes as the crumbling foundation "crisis."

She wrote two letters -- one to Gov. Dannel Malloy and the other to three members of the state's Congressional delegation – to push for a disaster declaration that could provide the funds for homeowners to replace their foundations.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have been reporting for months on the problem that's impacting hundreds of homes in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties.

Experts say the failing foundations cannot be fixed and the only remedy is replacing them at a cost of $150,000 and up.

Senator Osten said the legislature's planning and development committee has already passed a bill to allow homeowners to get a revaluation of their home at any time during the year to provide some temporary financial relief, but the aim is to truly make them whole again.

"To look at the six-figure replacement of the foundations for the people to get their homes back, that's the ultimate goal with the legislation. We believe it more firmly fits in with the federal government's ability to do this and we think that there are many more people who have not come forward because they don't know of any way that they can be made whole," the Sprague Democrat says.

Senator Osten believes FEMA is the most logical agency to handle the crumbling foundations problem.

Although she said that agency's initial response might be negative, she is hopeful that the federal government will ultimately provide the money to restore the value of these homes and maintain the viability of dozens of communities east of the Connecticut River.

Meanwhile, preliminary results of the state's investigation into the problem are expected later this spring.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundation Problem Has Added Headaches for Condo Owners]]>Mon, 07 Mar 2016 07:19:52 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Lawmakers_Say_Crumbling_Foundations_Top_Priority_1200x675_615702595692.jpg

Patti Cocuzzo and her partner, Kathy, were ready to make a move. They found a buyer for their unit in Lydall Woods Colonial Village in Manchester, but at the final inspection, everything changed.

"My realtor texted me and said it's a "'no go." The inspector said that we have the same problem that many people in Connecticut have with the crumbling foundations," said Cocuzzo.

Patti and Kathy had no idea about any foundation problems in their community.

They called contractor Don Childree for confirmation. He's worked on dozens of homes with crumbling foundations, and recognized the unusual cracking right away.

"It's the typical problem with the pyrrotite," said Childree.

An email from the property manager shows the association has been aware of the concrete issues for years.

"If we bought a house in 2011 and they knew about this problem, they'd have to disclose it to us. But we didn't buy a house, we bought into an association, so what makes it okay that they didn't tell us about that?" said Cocuzzo.

Matthew Perlstein, the attorney for Lydall Woods, acknowledges the association knows about the problem, but said the duty to disclose any foundation issue would fall on the seller of the unit.

"If a unit owner requests, the association will prepare and deliver what's known as a resale certificate," Perlstein said.

That includes details of the budget and any upcoming capital expenditures.

In a typical condominium, the cost of fixing a foundation would be shared by all the owners, but Lydall Woods is a "Planned Unit Development", not a condo, and according to the association documents, the responsibility is Patti and Kathy's alone.

"The maintenance, repair and replacement of any part of the building, including the basement, falls on the individual owner of that residence," said Perlstein.

But the logistics are tricky. Their building has 4 units, but only one foundation.

"Everybody is tied in together, so if you wanted to fix your foundation, you wouldn't be able to do it unless you were able to convince the neighbors to do it too," said Don Childree.

At this point, Patti Cocuzzo says any plans to move are on the back burner.

"We've been told the place is not sellable, or we'd have to sell for maybe $50,000 or less," Cocuzzo said.

They did contact the seller who said they had no knowledge of any foundation issues in 2011, when they sold the unit.

At this point, Patti and Kathy have filed an insurance claim, but, like many homeowners in eastern Connecticut , they're waiting to learn whether any money will be made available to help them replace their foundation.

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<![CDATA[Development Committee Holds Hearing Over Crumbling Foundations]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:43:48 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/new+crumbling+foundation_1200.jpg

An NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation has led to a public hearing at the state capitol over the growing crisis of crumbling foundations.

The Troubleshooters broke the story last summer and today is an important step to get help for struggling homeowners.

Dozens of people, like Don Poulin of Manchester, stepped to the microphone and told their stories to the General Assembly’s Planning And Development Committee with an eye toward getting some relief from a financially devastating dilemma.

The foundation of the Poulins' Manchester home is failing, and when they realized they had a major problem, their first line of defense failed them as well.

"I filed a claim with my insurance company over the phone rejected my claim and canceled my policy," Poulin said.

He was able to find another insurer, but he is still looking for relief from a problem that experts say cannot be fixed.

Contractor Don Childree says replacing a crumbling foundation costs at least 150 thousand dollars. Childree was among the dozens of people who came to Hartford Friday testify before state lawmakers. He believes there are aren't just hundreds,. but thousands of affected homes in eastern Connecticut.

"There's homes from '98 where the cracking is so small at this time. It's very hard to see, especially as a homeowner with no idea what you're looking for, you won't know that it's starting," Childree said.

Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris described the ongoing state investigation to homeowners and lawmakers alike in Hearing Room 2A.

Democratic State Representative Kelly Luxenberg of Manchester sponsored a bill to start the legislative fix, with an eye toward preventing more foundation problems in the future..

"I want to be able to go into town hall and see who poured the foundation, the date it was poured and what were the conditions. None of that exists now," Luxenberg said.

That solution wouldn't help Don Poulin, but he's encouraged by the activity at the State Capitol.

"This is good first step. I think there's a lot that needs to happen. A lot of legislation has to happen, but it has to happen in the succinct order," Poulin said.

Commissioner Harris said that he is expecting a preliminary report in the next month or so, but he warned homeowners and lawmakers that he does not expect any conclusions from the investigation until the fall at the soonest.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Bill to Address Crumbling Foundations Up for Action Today]]>Tue, 15 Mar 2016 07:35:05 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Lawmakers_Say_Crumbling_Foundations_Top_Priority_1200x675_615702595692.jpg

More than 150 Connecticut homeowners have filed complaints with the state because the foundations of their homes are crumbling and a legislative committee is discussing legislation today that would provide help to affected residents.

This is an issue the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have done dozens of stories on.

Contractors said the cost of replacing a crumbling foundation is at least $150,000 and some homeowners have filed a federal complaint, claiming insurance companies are purposefully working against them, and all homeowners who have crumbling foundations.

Don Childree, a contractor who testified before the General Assembly’s Planning and Development Committee on proposed legislation, said he believes thousands of homes in eastern Connecticut are affected.

Bill 5522, An Act Concerning Homeowners Insurance Policies and Coverage for the Peril of Collapse, is meant to help homeowners by requiring homeowners insurance policies to provide coverage for the peril of collapse and mitigation undertaken to prevent the house from falling down or caving in.

Opponents of the bill argue it would raise insurance rates.

Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would provide tax deductions for uninsured property losses.

The bill is now before the Insurance & Real Estate and it's one of several scheduled to be considered today. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. in room 2D of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Officials Raise Concerns as More Homeowners Come Forward With Crumbling Foundations]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 09:49:49 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumblingfoundations.jpg

Hundreds of homeowners in eastern Connecticut are at their wit's end. For most, insurance companies have denied coverage for their crumbling foundations. Bills and uncertainty are mounting while their home values plummet, and now many, like Bob Margliani, are taking action to ease the financial burden.

"I have approached the town, gone to have a discussion with the assessor's office and have filed an appeal for assessment relief," Margliani said.

Margliani bought his South Windsor home in 2001 and about two years ago, his foundation became a concern when he started noticing the cracks were multiplying inside and outside his home.

Last summer was when Bob realized he had a serious problem after he saw the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters' first story on crumbling foundations that are affecting hundreds of homeowners in eastern Connecticut.

South Windsor Town Councilor Dr. Saud Anwar has identified at least 400 homes in his town that might have the same foundation problem and believes a united effort is needed to craft a solution that even includes people without crumbling foundations.

"First of all, it's the right thing to do. The second thing is, if those home's values are going to go down, your home value is going to go down as well," the Democratic former mayor said.

Right now, hundreds of homeowners are awaiting results from a state investigation into the cause of the problem. Experts say it requires all the affected foundations to be replaced at a cost of $150,000 and higher.

A contractor quoted Bob Margliani $250,000 to replace his. In the meantime, he paid for a home appraisal, which indicates his house has lost more than half of its value since he identified the foundation problem. Now he's turning to town hall for tax relief.

The Troubleshooters have learned that 14 homeowners in South Windsor have filed assessment appeals and assessors in towns across eastern Connecticut have confirmed that many other homeowners are seeking property tax reductions as well.

That includes Star McAllister, of Ashford, who the Troubleshooters first interviewed last summer.

"Every day, I notice something cracking, something shifting," she said.

By state law, a homeowner has until Feb. 20 to file an application. The local Board of Assessment Appeals decides whether to grant any tax relief. In the long run, town leaders are concerned this could have an impact on grand lists in eastern Connecticut, but Anwar said that's just the beginning.

"If any community has 100 homes whose values suddenly drops, it's going to have a deep impact on the entire community because it's going to give a perspective to potential future buyer that there are problems in these homes and in those areas," Anwar said.

Margliani is still hopeful that local and state leaders can work with the insurance companies to develop a viable solution to an issue that's about more than just bricks and mortar.

"These are lives. This is not just a house or a structure, it's a home where they've raised their kids and spent a lot of their years. It's the emotional center of their universe," Margliani said.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations Top Priority For Lawmakers This Session]]>Wed, 03 Feb 2016 23:33:20 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumblingfoundation.jpg

State lawmakers are back in session for the first time since the Troubleshooters exposed a crisis with crumbling home foundations in eastern Connecticut.

Legislators who represent the affected towns said this is a top priority this session. In just the past couple of weeks the urgency of the issue accelerated after a Stafford building officials condemned a family's home that was deemed unsafe because of the crumbling foundation.

The Troubleshooters have been reporting since July on the problem that's affecting hundreds of homeowners in eastern Connecticut.

Experts said it requires all the foundations to be replaced at a cost of 150 thousand dollars and up.
Right now, homeowners and state leaders are awaiting results of state investigation into the cause of the problem.

In the meantime, lawmakers from eastern Connecticut said they're committed to getting their colleagues from other parts of the state on board and moving closer to a solution for the hundreds of homeowners impacted.

Longtime Senator Tony Guglielmo of Stafford said Hartford area legislators have supported transportation bills impacting Fairfield County in the past, and now it's time to return the favor.

"You can't be so provincial that's you're not willing to reach out. It's a small state so if we can't help out one another in Connecticut then something is really wrong," State Representative Chris Davis of Ellington said he's committed to making some progress for his constituents.

"There's no one silver bullet and unfortunately there's no one action that can solve this issue for anyone so we need to work together.."

Senator Guglielmo pointed to Community Development Block Grants as a possible source of seed money for homeowners. They are federal dollars allocated to Connecticut for smaller towns and could be a solid first step to give struggling homeowners some financial relief.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Homeowners With Crumbling Foundations Sue Insurers]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:47:09 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling_Foundation_1200x675_612031043772.jpg

Connecticut homeowners who are dealing with crumbling foundations are turning to federal court in an effort to hold insurance companies responsible for covering their losses.

Four homeowners filed a complaint that alleges the insurance companies are purposefully working against them, and all homeowners who have crumbling foundations.

The Troubleshooters have been reporting since July on a problem that's affecting hundreds of homeowners in eastern Connecticut. http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Crumbling-Foundations_Hartford-318078561.html

On Friday, homeowners from Ellington, Ashford, Stafford Springs and Manchester filed a complaint that names more than 100 insurance companies that write property and casualty policies in the state of Connecticut, as well as the Insurance Services Office, an association responsible for writing policy language used by most of the companies.

"The policies are all uniform, using standardized language and issue standardized denials to all these homeowners," Manchester Attorney Ryan Barry, who represents all four homeowners, said.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege a “concerted scheme” to deny them coverage for their failing basement walls, which experts say need to be replaced at a cost of $150,000 or more.

Barry said they paid an engineering firm thousands of dollars over the past several months to test for the source of the problem.

"They went into my clients' basements and extracted core samples from their basement wall and sent them to labs all across the country," Barry said.

In each case, Barry says the tests confirmed the presence of an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite, which is what the Troubleshooters have been reporting as the likely cause of the failing concrete.

Research suggests that pyrrhotite oxidizes over time from contact with air and water, creating a chemical reaction that causes the concrete walls to swell, expand, crack and ultimately fail.

The Troubleshooters reached out to the Insurance Services Office for a response to the lawsuit, but we have not heard back.

The status as a class action is something that has to be decided by the court. If it's granted, dozens of other eastern Connecticut homeowners in similar situations would be able to join the lawsuit.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations Found in Connecticut Homes]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:47:59 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumblingfoundation.jpg

Sandy Miller has known the foundation of her long time Stafford home was troubled but Monday night things went from bad to worse.

"The house made a loud noise and then proceeded to shake as if there was an earthquake," Miller said. "My 16-year-old daughter who had been home from school had told me that it happened three or four times in the time that she'd been home from school until I had got home."

In November, engineer Bill Neal inspected the single mother's home for structural defects. Neil's report indicates a one inch gap between the wood shelf on top and the finished wall.

"(The) wall is separating, the shelf is separating from the wall," Miller showed NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters when they came to the home. 

The Troubleshooters were there when Neal returned to the home. He discovered that the one inch gap had nearly doubled in size in less than two months caused by what he called "rapid movements" in the concrete walls. 

"I can't tell you how much it pains me to say this to you," Neal told Miller. 

Neal and the town's building inspector agree that Miller's home has deteriorated to the point where it's no longer safe for her and her daughters to stay. 

"Financially, this is a huge burden on me," Miller said. "I don't know what else to do."

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first exposed the problem in July. It's affecting hundreds of residents from East Hartford to Ashford to homes they report were built between the early 1980s to the late 1990s.

Homeowners in the months since said the cracks begin a decade or more after the foundation was placed. They said insurance companies deny claims for coverage with out of pocket costs to replace totaling in the hundreds of thousands dollars. 

Miller hopes to disrupts her kids' lives as little as possible but has no idea where they are going to live.

"It's devastating because this is the home that my kids have grown up in," Miller said. "Now they don't have a home."

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reached out to the Department of Consumer Protection.

"Our hearts go out to the families whose homes have been hurt by damaged foundations," Commissioner Jonathan Harris said. "We're working hard to move our investigation forward deliberately, effectively and as quickly as possible."

Harris said the state should have preliminary results of its probe in the spring.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Hundreds of Homeowners Pack Foundation Meeting]]>Sat, 21 Nov 2015 19:13:35 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/112115+crumbling+foundations+1200.jpg

Hundreds of concerned homeowners affected with failing concrete foundations met for the first time in Vernon.

The meeting comes four months into a Troubleshooters investigation exposing the problem plaguing some homeowners in the northeast corner of the state for nearly years.

The meeting was organized by Ellington attorney Brenda Draghi. Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris, along with representatives from the Attorney General’s Office and Insurance Department, updated the estimated crowd of 500 on the state civil demand investigation.

Harris told the crowd that they’ve contracted a concrete expert from University of Connecticut to study the science behind the chemical reaction causing severe cracks and eventual failure in concrete basement walls.

“It’s a little daunting the magnitude, we knew that the scope was large,” said Harris. “It’s encouraging that people are coming out because a lot of people felt isolated and didn’t know what to do and know they now there’s people out there to help.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said the sizable crowd is proof the size and scope of the issue is “unprecedented in his career”. Adding if there was example of innocent people “suffering wrong as consumers, it would be you.”

“You know the old saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? This picture is worth a thousand words,” Blumenthal said prior to leaving the meeting. “Not just the numbers but the passion and the anxiety that people rightly feel.”

Congressman Joseph Courtney (D-2) who lives in Vernon, also acknowledged the number of people in attendance saying it’s personal because neighbors on his street are affected by the problem.

“Looking at the size of this crowd, it speaks louder and more powerfully than any one of us up here could ever achieve," he said.

Those sentiments were echoed by the homeowners in attendance. Phil Luginbuhl said the cost of replacing his foundation cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. He says atleast four other households in his family also are dealing with the issue.

“I knew this was a problem, but not this big,” said Luginbuhl. “This is incredible.”

Hundreds of people contacted NBC Connecticut following the original July 21 investigation. They all reported having their insurance companies deny claims of coverage. The only remedy, according to contractors and structural engineers, is to replace the foundation.

“I’m very pleased to see the turnout and excited for the state of Connecticut to see the enormous amount of people that have this problem,” said Tim Heim, whose Willington foundation is bowing and showing significant spider cracks.

In August, because of the NBC Connecticut investigation, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called on the Attorney General’s Office to assist the Department of Consumer Protection in a civil investigation.

Advisories have been sent to home inspectors and realtors to be aware of the problem. The Insurance Department sent a warning to insurance companies not to drop or non-renew coverage if policy holders file claims.

For Linda Tofolowsky, this day is a long time coming. Her home’s concrete basement walls began deteriorating in the mid 1990s. She sought help from her town, state and the courts to no avail. While she’s encouraged by seeing everyone in the same room, she’s still looking for answers.

“I’m happy somebody’s listening, maybe something will happen, but I’m guarded because the ball has been dropped so many times in the past,” said Tofolowsky.

While no solutions are on the table yet, many left saying the future seems a little brighter.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now,” said Luginbuhl. “It’s possible something’s going to happen.”

The state says results from their investigation are expected next summer or early fall.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Realtors Ask For Help Dealing With Crumbling Foundations Problem]]>Sat, 07 Nov 2015 09:19:57 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundation+sept+10.jpg

Realtors in Connecticut concerned about home sales falling apart due to cracking foundations, are looking for direction on what to tell their clients.

Northeast Connecticut realtors are begging for guidance when it comes to the growing crisis of failing concrete basement walls, but say they don’t know where to turn.

Realtors tell the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that deals have already fallen apart because of the issue plaguing hundreds of homeowners from East Hartford to Union.

Union First Selectman Andy Goodhall, who is also a real estate broker, said he is frustrated because he had no answers to questions being asked by employees, clients or constituents.

“I don’t see the urgency out there,” says Goodhall. “We need information. We need science. We need direction.”

Realtors who have contacted NBC Connecticut say they are seeking guidance from the industry’s licensing body, the Connecticut Association of Realtors, but are receiving none.

When contacted by the Troubleshooters, current association president Sandy Maier Schede said she never even knew a problem with failing concrete foundation existed in the northeast corner of the state, despite the Department of Consumer Protection sending out a warning to the association and realtors to beware of the issue months ago.

Hours later, she emailed a statement:

“The Connecticut Association of Realtors applauds the efforts of the Connecticut Attorney General's Office and the Department of Consumer Protection to identify the source and extent of the foundation problems in Connecticut. We are not aware that speculation on this issue has impacted real estate values or sales. We will continue to share information as it is provided to us by regulatory and governmental agencies. DCP has established an informational brochure and dedicated email address for any Connecticut resident with any concern about their own property.”

Goodhall says there is no speculation, He says this is an major problem impacting homeowners and their neighbors.

“If it gets out of hand, then the state needs to talk about funds and helping the associations that are going go broke. Condo associations and single middle class people who can’t afford to fix their home,” Goodhall said.

He says he first started noticing foundation issues about five years ago, but didn’t think it was a major problem. It wasn’t until the last year that he started to realize it was something that needed to be taken seriously.

“It’s unsettling because you sell these people properties in good faith,” Goodhall said. Goodhall has more than two decades experience in the real estate industry and is serving his 7th non-continuous term as first selectman of the state’s least populated town.

The Troubleshooters discovered some state lawmakers and the Department of Consumer Protection heard of crumbling foundations as far back as 2002, when there was only a handful of complaints. One former State Representative called on the Attorney General’s Office to investigate at the time, when the number of affected homes was only in the dozens, but nothing was done.

State officials now say there is a task force to tackle the problem. The Attorney General is assisting the Department of Consumer Protection in a civil investigation, but Goodhall says no information is being relayed to the realtors, inspectors, structural engineers or town officials. He is concerned for his liability in representing buyers and sellers in the area.

Some experts and state officials believe that the horizontal, diagonal and spider cracking may be due to an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite. Research suggests the mineral oxidizes over time, causing the concrete to swell and expand, leading to the severe cracks and eventual failure of the foundation. They say it’s often 15 years or longer after the foundation was placed.

Homeowners say insurance denies claims for coverage and costs to fix the problems could go into the hundreds of thousands.

Robert Hagedorn, a retired police officer, purchased his attached Manchester home in 2014. He says he hired a local realtor and a licensed home inspector. Despite doing his due diligence, he says he was never told the cracks on his foundation could be a problem. He says he was also never told there was a history of failed foundations in his neighborhood.

“You know, we rely on these guys for their expertise because I don’t know anything about this stuff,” Hagedorn said. “This is not something that at this stage of your life you want to be doing.”

An officer with the Connecticut Association of Home Inspectors says they are trying to learn more about the issue affecting hundreds of homeowners in the northeast corner of the state so they can educate their members.

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<![CDATA[Condo Owners Share Pain of Crumbling Foundations]]>Sat, 31 Oct 2015 17:09:46 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/CONDOFOUNDATION.jpg

Dealing with a crumbling foundation is emotionally and financially draining on homeowners, but those living in condominium complexes say the challenges are multiplied.

Condominium and planned unit development owners from several complexes in eastern Connecticut first reached out to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters in the weeks after the original investigation aired in July.

Unit owners dealing with the issue at one Willington condominium community say sharing the cost and planning the logistics of replacing a single concrete foundation with six separate owners is overwhelming.

“When you’ve got all these unit owners, what are you gonna do?” says James Nissen. “This is beyond our scope and beyond our finances so it’s just a matter of time before we basically have to leave - like it or lump it.”

Nissen says the association overlooking the 6 building, 34-unit community off Baxter Road in Willington tried to keep up with the cracks forming by fixing the concrete walls with the worst signs of deterioration. The cost was shared among all the owners. Each owner took out a $10,000 loan to pay for the fixes, but Nissen says it did not solve the problem.

“The ones that were really hurting they got taken care of,” says Nissen. “Now, some of them on the ends are starting to hurt. So what’s going to happen with them?”

Attorney Scott Sandler represents about 400 community associations. He is the current legislative liaison and former president of the Connecticut Chapter of the Community Associations Institute – a membership group made up of hundreds of association managers, lawyers, structural engineers and contractors.

“One of the challenges for the associations is educating the homeowners as to why it is a community expense,” Sandler said. “It may not be directly under their unit where the problem is but if they’re sharing a foundation the entire thing is under their building. It’s not an easy situation for anyone, either the association or the homeowner.”

The state Department of Consumer Protection is investigating the issue with assistance from the Attorney General’s office. The Governor’s office says a working group of legislators and experts met to discuss the problem facing hundreds of homeowners, maybe more, in the northeast corner of the state.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[State Warns Insurance Companies Not to Cancel Policies Over Foundation Problems]]>Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:31:47 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Options_for_Crumbling_Foundations_1200x675_523726403811.jpg

The state insurance department sent a letter to insurance companies notifying them they are not to cancel or non-renew any policies for homeowners who file claims for coverage because they have a crumbling foundation.

The move is in response to concerns voiced by many homeowners and their attorneys.

One homeowner complained to the Department of Consumer Protection that their insurance company was dropping them at renewal because they had an issue with their home's foundation.

In the course of an NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation starting in July, homeowners have said they are scared to file a claim because of the risk of losing insurance.

Homeowners and attorneys tell NBC Connecticut their claims get denied, at times without the insurance company seeing the failing concrete basement walls.

The Department of Consumer Protection released a brochure to help homeowners with the issue.

The department is warning homeowners to beware of any potential repair scams.

The Department of Consumer Protection and Attorney General’s office is conducting a civil demand investigation into the problem affecting at least hundreds of homes in northeast Connecticut.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Homeowners Say Mottes Interview Raises More Questions]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:55:37 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Mottes_Interview_Reaction_1200x675_530503747936.jpg

Homeowners affected by crumbling foundations say the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters interview with the concrete company at the center of a state investigation raises more questions than answers.

J.J. Mottes spokesman John Patton said Monday he believes the cause of the crisis is faulty installation, not a chemical reaction involving a mineral in the concrete his company supplies. The issue is plaguing at least hundreds of northeastern Connecticut concrete basement walls.

"I have a lot of questions but I've got no answers," said Willington resident Tim Heim, whose concrete walls show spider cracking and deterioration. "I think Mr. Patton kind of danced around the questions when the people right now need answers, honest answers, more than ever."

Heim said at least four of his neighbors have already replaced or are in the process of replacing their concrete foundations. He said the neighbors have contacted their builders to confirm their concrete was supplied by J.J. Mottes.

Heim believes the company and the state should be focusing on the contents of the concrete rather than who installed it.

One of the neighbors who already replaced her foundation is Nancy Smith. She knows J.J. Mottes supplied the concrete used in her basement because she remembers seeing the truck there when it was placed more than 20 years ago.

Smith said she spent more than $150,000 to replace the foundation because the house was "worthless." She felt the interview with Patton is a step in the right direction.

"I think I got a little more hope," she said. "Some of my questions weren’t answered, but I think now they’re identifying the problem and they’re going to work and try to solve this."

Patton's family owns both J.J. Mottes and Becker’s Quarry, where the company retrieves its aggregate. Patton disputes the assertions by some scientists and concrete testers that an iron sulfide mineral found in the quarry’s stone called pyrrhotite is to blame. He points his finger instead at issues such as the foundation installers mixing too much water during the original pour.

"If you have a high water-to-cement ratio, there’s a direct correlation between that and the durability of a wall. Water can bring other problems with it," he said. "So at the end of the day, there are a lot of issues that it can be and I think it’s a disservice to say this is the cause."

Patton also disputes that his company's concrete is the only one having the problem and said he went to some of his competitors to look for pyrrhotite by using a magnet and a magnifying glass.

When challenged as to whether in the competitor’s aggregate was tested for pyrrhotite, Patton would only say "we pulled it and they have it there." He would not name the company he visited.

Concrete suppliers in eastern Connecticut who talked to the Troubleshooters have said Patton is incorrect. Four different companies said they’ve received no reports of the distinct pyrrhotite oxidation cracking and catastrophic failure in any of the concrete they’ve supplied.

Willington resident Walter Zalewa questions Patton’s assertions that the cause of his failing concrete walls is from improper installation. He said he was there when J.J. Mottes concrete supplied the concrete for his foundation in 1988 and was also there when Mottes supplied the concrete for his garage foundation three years later. Now, both show significant cracking.

"There are so many different installers. The guys who poured my house? Different people, same (concrete) company, the problems are the same," said Zalewa. "It can’t be an installation problem because everyone's foundation would fall apart."

Zalewa wasn’t impressed with what Patton had to say.

"I don’t believe they're being truthful and honest. I still feel they know a lot more than their letting onto," Zalewa said.

In statement today, John Patton said "homeowners deserve answers and need help with solutions. That’s why we support a task force that will study all aspects that affect the durability of foundation walls."

According to the Department of Consumer Protection, a working group of experts is currently examining the issue.

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.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Concrete Company Tells Its Side]]>Mon, 21 Sep 2015 23:21:28 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/john+patton+jj+mottes.jpg

A spokesman for the concrete company at the center of a state investigation is standing by its product, pointing the finger at installers for causing the crumbling foundation problem plaguing hundreds of eastern Connecticut homeowners.

J.J. Mottes secretary John Patton acknowledged there’s an issue with concrete failing in the northeast corner of the state, but disagreed with allegations that the cause is a chemical reaction in Mottes' concrete brought on by a mineral found in the stone where the company gets its concrete aggregate.

"You’re trying to nail it down to one particular issue," Patton told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters. "I can tell you that there’s dozens of reasons why foundations fail and none of them have anything to do with concrete."

Some believe pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral found in Becker’s Quarry in West Willington, is to blame for the catastrophic failure of the foundations. Patton acknowledged the mineral is likely in the concrete J.J. Mottes supplied from the early 1980s through the late 1990s and remains in the concrete being poured in residential, commercial, municipal and state jobs today. However, he denied it’s the source of the problem.

"Pyrrhotite could be a symptom at the end of the day. There’s a lot of issues that have to kind of line up together," said Patton, formerly first selectman of Willington. "It really is a complex issue."

Patton said he personally checked the aggregate from his competitors and found pyrrhotite in their aggregate as well. He said numerous times that other local concrete suppliers use the same aggregate as J.J. Mottes; however, when contacted by the Troubleshooters, four of the closest competitors denied they’ve ever retrieved gravel for concrete from Becker’s Quarry.

Patton cited unregulated and unchecked workmanship, specifically too much water being mixed in the concrete during installation, as causing unique cracking issues decades later.

When asked why there are no reported issues with this problem outside the J.J. Mottes service area in northeast Connecticut and Massachusetts, Patton said it’s something that needs to be investigated.

"This is why I think a task force is really warranted," he said. "They need to really look at this and look at this in a comprehensive way so that they can figure what is happening."

Despite Patton’s assertions that concrete from other companies also have the problem, not one other company's concrete has been reported to NBC Connecticut since the Troubleshooters first exposed the problem affecting homeowners in July.

The investigation found hundreds of foundations, maybe more, have failed over the last 20 years. Experts, public officials and homeowners allege the common link is that all were placed using J.J. Mottes Company-supplied concrete.

Patton, whose wife Diane owns the company, said it’s the installers who worked fast and loose during the busy building boom of the 1980s that is causing the foundations to crumble.

"There were no cellphones. There was no tweets or text messages. You called in the morning and said, 'I need a truck here at this particular time,'" said Patton. "And if you got there and they weren’t ready, then those trucks might wait and that’s one of the things that really shouldn’t happen."

Patton and experts report there is a risk that concrete will harden too much to install correctly if it’s not poured within 90 minutes of being mixed.

Patton could not explain why no issues have been reported after 1998. He said the company continues to make concrete the same way, up to state and national standards.

When asked if it’s possible the issue could be impacting the region for decades to come because nothing has changed in how the company mixes its concrete, Patton responded by calling on a state task force to figure it out.

"You need to have people look at this that are experts in their field," Patton said of the state task force. "We’re happy to participate that. We think that these homeowners need answers. They deserve answers."

Patton cited a single court judgment from 2003 that found his company not liable for providing faulty concrete as evidence to support his case, but acknowledged the company never looked into pyrrhotite as being a potential cause until recently, despite experts testifying in court to the problem at least as far back as 2010.

However, Patton didn’t deny that some, even a majority, of the crumbling foundations could be comprised of J.J. Mottes supplied concrete because of its "large market share."

"We absolutely sympathize with (affected homeowners) but they have to understand we don’t build foundation walls," he said. "There’s many issues that can do it, but the main thing is that they deserve the answers to the questions they're asking, which is why we support a task force and want to assist them in that."

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.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Repair, Replace or Walk Away?]]>Fri, 11 Sep 2015 12:47:52 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundation+sept+10.jpg

In the northeast corner of Connecticut hundreds of people, maybe more, are considering or have already considered the different options when it comes to dealing with their crumbling home foundations.

Experts tell the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters the only way to guarantee the problem goes away is to lift the house, remove the existing foundation and replace it. The cost, however, is often out of pocket because insurance companies deny most claims for coverage. It often goes into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The process of replacing a foundation creates more than financial distress. Homeowners often need to relocate or live for months in a construction zone.

Some homeowners have gone a different route. They’ve hired structural engineers who say they can fix the problem without replacement.

Those options could include pouring a new concrete wall inside the existing foundation. While the original foundation continues to support the weight of the house, the inner wall acts as a backup in case the outer wall collapses. The cost is considerably lower than replacement, but still nears $100,000.

It’s the option Theodore Perrill and his wife Cathy went with two years ago when a structural engineer told them they caught the issue early enough to spare them from needing to replace the foundation.

"It definitely needs to be said that this new wall and the support are not bearing any weight," said Theodore Perrill, pointing to the basement walls in his South Windsor home. "We did all of this as insurance and only if the original wall starts to release its weight, then (the inner wall) will take its weight."

The Perrills say the cost was approximately $90,000, a hefty sum, but tens of thousands of dollars less than the replacement cost. There are no visible cracks in their new foundation wall at this point and their engineer assured them the problem is solved.

Susan Markland of Tolland also thought the problem was solved when she purchased her home in 2006. The inner wall had just recently been placed inside her basement. However, years later, problems started to develop.

The original foundation walls continued to deteriorate. The increased spider cracking can be seen while standing outside.

Inside the basement, the issue is more apparent. The existing foundation is expanding, swelling and cracking through the newer inner wall. Some cracks are large enough to fit your hand in.

"I have to take this (inner) wall out so the engineer can determine if the structure is safe enough for us to stay here," said Markland. "All my windows are out of line. My doors are out of line."

Also, the home is no longer resting on the inner wall because the exterior wall has pushed it up from the foundation.

It’s the common thread for homeowners from East Hartford to Ashford, whom the Troubleshooters have visited over the last two months. Some believe the cause is an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite, which is found in the stone used in the concrete aggregate.

Structural engineer Bill Neal has seen six to eight crumbling foundations per week over the last two months. Some, like Markland's, were supposedly "fixed" years ago, but continue to deteriorate.

"I haven’t seen a repair yet that was effective, structurally sound, that’s worth the tens of thousands of dollars it cost to do," said Neal.

Contractor Donald Childree is also seeing some homes with concrete inner walls having issues. One wall in Vernon was placed less than 10 years ago, but now chunks of the inner wall can be easily pulled away.

"If this didn’t work, there is nothing else that can fix this. It’s why the foundations have to be taken out. All the concrete has to be taken out and new concrete has to be installed. That’s the only fix to this," said Childree.

Another repair involves injecting an epoxy to weld together the cracks. After the injection, the walls are painted with a waterproof membrane.

It’s how Luc Richard repaired a cracked foundation in Coventry in 2009. Richard owns Attack-a-Crack, a concrete repair company that focuses on water and settlement issues. He learned soon after the repair that the epoxy will not work in this particular case.

Just over six years later, the cracks remain welded shut, but many new cracks have formed.

"It won’t fix it. The only advice I can give it to replace the foundation. That’s the only solution that I know of," said Richard.

Ellen Peloquin chose not to deal with any repair or replacement. The Willington native instead opted to sell her home for a significant loss, choosing to take the financial hit rather than live through the process.

"I took $175,000 less than asking price," said Peloquin. "Physically and emotionally, I just don’t have the strength to go through that whole process, so that’s why I decided to take my losses and go."

If you have dealt with a crumbling foundation, send your address, the year your home was built, the builder and the concrete company to Troubleshooters@NBCConnecticut.com.

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<![CDATA[Towns Fear Fallout if No Govt. Action Taken on Foundations]]>Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:41:14 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundations+august+20.jpg

Crumbling foundations could be affecting more than just the homeowners dealing with the problem.

Federal, state and town officials are concerned with the ripple effect the growing crisis could have on entire communities.

A number of elected officials want to convene a task force with federal, state and local agencies to combat the problem as they learn more about the impact the issue could have on the economy of the entire northeast corner of the state.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal toured a neighborhood in Willington this week to see the failing concrete foundations firsthand. He pledged to the homeowners that he will do whatever he can to help them in their attempts to recover homeowners insurance claims.

"It’s not only the right to be covered but it’s also the right to be fully and fairly informed about changes that may be misleading or deceptive and make sure that they fully understood what they were buying when they bought homeowners insurance," said Blumenthal.

Connecticut’s senior senator believes the state needs to identify any public buildings which could be affected with the failing concrete.

"I would urge the state be absolutely proactive, aggressive, vigilant in delving into whether or not their buildings may be defective with foundations decaying in the same way they are here," he said.

State Sen. Tony Guglielmo, a Republican from Stafford, represents 13 towns in eastern Connecticut. He thinks the issue could be felt by entire communities and could destroy the real estate market in the whole region if the government doesn’t step in with a fund to help homeowners pay for foundation replacement.

"Who is going to buy a house in an area where they’re not sure if the foundation is safe?" Guglielmo asked the Troubleshooters. "What bank or mortgage company is going to lend money to a homeowner in that area?"

South Windsor Mayor Saud Anwar said he wants to bring together a coalition of eastern Connecticut mayors and first selectmen to identify how towns are fiscally impacted now and how they could be in the future by what he calls a "slow-moving disaster."

Anwar believes the issue could lead affected homeowners to appeal property tax assessments because their homes cannot be sold for the valuations they’re being taxed on.

"Our concern starts with the community of which we represent but, of course, as we expand that the grand list may have an impact as well," said Anwar, who faces re-election a second term in office this fall. "Assessment would have to change to be fair to people that are the tax payers."

Ellington First Selectman Maurice Blanchette, a Republican, echoes the concerns, especially if people walk away from their homes because they can’t afford to pay the six-figure cost of replacement out of pocket.

"It impacts the town a lot because the value of the properties can fall off in situations like this and make it much tougher for us to run our institutions, pave our roads and do the things we need to do," said Blanchette.

Hundreds of homeowners have contacted the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters over the last six week saying they’ve been impacted by a crumbling foundation.

If you have dealt with the issue, are dealing with the issue or fear you might be affected by the issue, send your address, home builder, concrete supplier and the year your home was built to Troubleshooters@NBCConnecticut.com.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: 'I Didn't Know Then What We Know Now']]>Wed, 02 Sep 2015 19:34:04 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/blumenthal+crumbling+foundations.JPG

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling for a task force made up of local, state and federal officials and agencies to combat the growing crisis of crumbling foundations in the northeast corner of Connecticut.

Blumenthal made the plea while touring a neighborhood in Willington, where several homeowners are dealing with failing concrete walls.

"A picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture is absolutely appalling and astonishing," said Blumenthal. "I want to fight for these folks because they clearly have foundations made of diseased, decaying, decrepit and defective concrete, and that’s outrageous."

While this was the first time the senior senator saw firsthand the problem affecting hundreds of homeowners, it was not the first time he was confronted with the issue.

The first reported issue of a failing foundation was in the mid 1990s. In 2002, with the number of affected homes still in its infancy, former State Rep. Michael Cardin, a Democrat from Tolland, called on the Department of Consumer Protection and then-Attorney General Blumenthal to investigate.

In April 2003, affected homeowners met with state legislators, concrete experts and several state agencies – including representatives of the attorney general’s office – but no investigations or public warnings came out of it.

"Whatever was told to representatives of the Department of Consumer Protection or the insurance agency at the time is a fair subject for investigation," Blumenthal said when Troubleshooter George Colli asked if the state dropped the ball. "Whether they were misled by any of these parties that now should be held accountable. That’s really my goal. To help these homeowners with very severe problems that are coming to light now."

State Sen. Tony Guglielmo also attended that 2003 meeting. He represents 13 towns in eastern Connecticut, nearly all of them with homeowners now affected by failing concrete.

"We were told by all of the state officials that there was no remedy and nobody knew the extent of the problem," said Guglielmo. "People thought, I’m sure, it was poor workmanship."

Guglielmo alerted state leaders to the problem again in recent years. In an email to the lieutenant governor sent in August 2014, Guglielmo said he had heard of the problem before but thought they were isolated cases. He said the state may need to set up a fund to assist the homeowners.

"I think this task force has got to get up and running pretty quick," said Guglielmo. "The money needs to be put into the fund quickly and consistently because, I think, the problem could be that big."

In a series of reports starting in July, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters revealed that some believe an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite is to blame. Research suggests the pyrrhotite oxidizes over time, and the chemical reaction leads to cracking and eventual failure.

Homeowners, structural engineers, contractors and town building officials all say the problems stem from concrete supplied by only one company: J.J. Mottes Company of Stafford Springs. They say the problems are with cement poured between the early 1980s through the late 1990s.

Guglielmo said he’s known the family that owns J.J. Mottes for a long time but they’ve never talked to him about the issue.

"I don’t think they ever knew it was a problem," said Guglielmo. "Once it cropped up, it’s not something they would want to talk to about outside their family and any legal help they're going to bring in."

In the company's first response since the original investigation, J.J. Mottes spokesman John Patton said in a statement:

"For decades the Joseph J. Mottes Company has consistently produced ready mix concrete meeting all state and industry standards. We welcome the formation of a task force to investigate the installation practices of building foundations, and would gladly participate in the process."

Blumenthal believes it’s time the company comes forward with any information it may have to help the state understand the scope of the problem.

"This company has a legal obligation, more important a moral obligation, to be absolutely forthcoming, upfront and transparent about what they knew and when they knew it, because the state’s inability and failure to act may be because of faulty information given to the DCP or other agencies," said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal said he hopes to convene a meeting of federal, state and local officials and agencies in the coming weeks.

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.

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<![CDATA[Town Wants State to Tackle 'Growing Crisis']]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:25:35 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundations+august+20.jpg

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.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Former Lawmaker Called for Investigation in 2002]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:26:23 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Governor_Asks_AG_to_Assist_With_Crumbling_Foundations_1200x675_500059715571.jpg

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.

New evidence reveals some state lawmakers, state agencies, association leaders and municipal employees were aware of a growing number of failing foundations allegedly linked to one concrete company back in 2002.

The letter from former State Rep. Michael Cardin (D-Tolland) to a group of eastern Connecticut lawmakers is dated October 7, 2002. Cardin identified some constituents of his as well as some in his “colleagues” districts “affected by a faulty concrete batch produced by Mottes concrete."

Cardin wrote, “My office has been in frequent contact with the DCP and no action has been taken by the agency. It is my intention to have the case transferred to the Attorney General’s office so they can expedite a case against Mottes.”

Cardin listed two categories under which the Attorney General can sue: Licensing and the Trade Practices Act.

The letter led to a meeting on April 15, 2003 in the House Speaker’s office. An invitation inviting homeowners said it was regarding “an effort to expand the warranty period for major construction defects under the New Home Warranty Act.”

The list of attendees included were representatives from the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Consumer Protections and Legislative Commissioners. Also said to be attending are lawmakers, affected homeowners and “various concrete experts."

Cardin, who left the legislature in 2005, told NBC Connecticut Troubleshooter George Colli he remembers members of the Home Builders Association and town building officials also present in the meeting. He says it was the ordeal constituents Linda and Robert Tofolowsky were going through that led him to sound the alarm.

“One of the battles that the Tofolowsky's were fighting is that they were hitting a brick wall at every step of the process,” said Cardin. “When one constituent calls about an issue, its' something that you should follow up on, when 5 people call about it, it's a big issue. I seem to remember that when Linda Tofolowsky called me, she herself had probably, at least, a dozen maybe two dozen people.”

As for why he called on then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to get involved, Cardin said he “needed more allies to fight their battle and fight the others."

The Attorney General’s office and Department of Consumer Protection said they have no recollection or record of the 2002 letter or 2003 meeting.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he remembers there was no investigation because he was never asked to pursue a case by the DCP.

Previously, the Troubleshooters reported the earliest any state agencies were aware of the problems was when the DCP investigated multiple homes affected by the failing foundations in 2008.

The Department of Consumer Protection did not issue an advisory of the problem until current Commissioner Jonathan Harris visited a home with us two weeks ago. He sent out a warning to home inspectors and realtors last week.

Gov. Dannel Malloy requested Attorney General George Jepsen assist the Department of Consumer Protection in a civil investigation last Thursday. The Attorney General’s office said the investigation has begun. This comes after the Troubleshooters found hundreds of homes with concrete supplied by J.J. Mottes between the early 1980s through 1998 suffering from failing foundations.

Representatives from J.J. Mottes declined to comment. They have declined to answer any questions posed since the original Troubleshooters story aired on July 21.

In that story and in the weeks since, the Troubleshooters featured homeowners from East Hartford to Ashford with failing foundations.

In a comment for the original story, spokesperson for J.J. Mottes Company, John Patton, said the company has received no issues with any concrete supplied after 1998 and they’ve begun working with managers, geologists and testing labs to review our manufacturing methods and materials.

That review began after NBC Connecticut first questioned them.

Former Rep. Cardin said he can’t believe it’s taken this long for the issue to be made public and never imagined the problem would grow to be as widespread as it is today with at least hundreds of homes and entire neighborhoods are affected with the issue.

“I feel serving in the statehouse you're fighting a lot of battles- some small, some big. I felt this was a big battle," said Cardin. “I really feel the evidence is clear, if there is some body that has the authority, they need to issue a cease and desist order against the Mottes company today."

Viewers have identified to NBC Connecticut nearly 200 homes dealing or that dealt with a crumbling foundation. If you dealt with the issue, email your story 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.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Governor Asks Attorney General to Assist With Investigation]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:26:49 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Crumbling+foundations+1200.jpg

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.

Connecticut's governor wants the attorney general to get answers as to why foundations are crumbling in the eastern part of the state.

In a response to an ongoing NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation, Gov. Dannel Malloy requested in a letter to Attorney General George Jepsen that he help the Department of Consumer Protection initiate a Civil Investigation Demand process into the concrete company allegedly linked to hundreds of failing residential foundations.

In the letter dated Aug. 6, Malloy says he is “very concerned for homeowners potentially affected by faulty concrete” and he believes it warrants further inquiry “due to the potential deleterious effect on homes and potential financial impact on homeowners.”

In an exclusive interview with NBC Connecticut’s George Colli, Malloy said the civil investigation does not place blame on J.J. Mottes Company, but does legally bind them to answer questions under oath, which will allow the state to understand the full scope of the issue.

“We’re just trying to understand this as fully as possible so we can get the answers for the questions we need to have answered,” said Malloy. “I don’t know what we can do. This is not a government activity that was engaged in so we’re not directly liable. There are serious questions that need to be asked.”

The Troubleshooters’ first investigation on July 21 found homeowners struggling to get help fixing their crumbling foundations. In the days since, more than 150 homeowners contacted the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters saying they’re basements are failing too. Most say their insurance companies denied coverage for their claims, so they have to pay up to hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket to fix the problem.

“Devastating, just devastating it can be,” said Malloy. “You have to interrupt your life and support your house while a foundation is being built underneath. It is not an easy proposition for anyone to be looking at and it can be very expensive.”

The civil investigation demand process will determine if any consumer protection rules were violated, whether or not faulty concrete was knowingly poured and or supplied to contractors and whether or not there was any breach of a duty and consequent failure to notify homeowners and the state.

“We have to get to the heart of this. Is there coverage by the company itself? Is there homeowners coverage that may be available? Is there other ways to help these folks? We’ve got to take this seriously. We’ve got to look at it and that’s why I’m asking the attorney general to get involved in the process,” Malloy said.

Homeowners, contractors and building officials tell the Troubleshooters the issues have only been reported with concrete supplied by J.J. Mottes Company of Stafford Springs.

The Troubleshooters reported the DCP investigated the issue in 2008. However, no warnings were sent to homeowners or inspectors until yesterday. The governor acknowledges some state officials have known of the issue, but he hasn’t learned of it until recently.

“This thing has been out there awhile as you’ve shown. What happened in the past? I’m not surely aware of yet,” said Malloy. “What we should be doing is getting to the answers as soon as possible for these homeowners or commercial owners or for even our own state structures."

Some believe an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite is to blame. The governor specifically cites the mineral and its devastating effects in his letter. The U.S. Geological Survey and the company itself confirm pyrrhotite is found in the quarry where J.J. Mottes has retrieved aggregate for its cement for decades. The Troubleshooters have repeatedly asked the company for comment on whether it tests for pyrrhotite.

All of the reported residential issues are for foundations poured between the early 1980s through 1998.

The company has declined comment on that, but apparently has given some answers to the governor.

“There has been an explanation. Whether it’s 100 percent accurate or not is left to be determined,” said Malloy, who said the mineral could be in some levels of the rock in the quarry but not others. “So we’re trying to understand what the signifigance of the time frame is.”

J.J. Mottes declined to comment on the governor’s request for an investigation, but in a statement released prior to the Troubleshooters’ initial story, company spokesperson John Patton said J.J. Mottes has received no reports of issues with concrete poured after 1998 and has begun working with managers, geologists and testing labs to review its manufacturing methods and materials.

That review began after the Troubleshooters first questioned J.J. Mottes.

Whatever the answers may be, the governor believes the homeowners and the state need them expeditiously as possible.

The attorney general’s office said it has received the letter and is beginning the investigation immediately. The first step will be issuing an administrative subpoena to the company with the questions it must answer under oath.

Click here to read Gov. Malloy's letter the attorney general.

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.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: DCP Sends Advisory to Home Inspectors, Realtors]]>Wed, 05 Aug 2015 19:54:37 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/List_of_Crumbling_Foundations_Grows_1200x675_490469443904.jpg

The Department of Consumer Protection is advising home inspectors, realtors, homeowners and contractors to be aware of the specific kind of cracking associated with at least hundreds of failing foundations in the eastern part of the state.

In an advisory released Wednesday, the DCP warns home inspectors to disclose any signs of cracking and deterioration to their clients and urges them to follow the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Residential Properties and visual inspection standards when inspecting residential foundations.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first brought to light the issue plaguing some homeowners east of the Connecticut River for nearly two decades on July 21.

In the message to home inspectors, the DCP describes the unique characteristics of the failed foundations as "map" or "spider" cracking which "may possess rust colored staining with associated effervescence."

Commissioner Jonathan Harris said the agency, as well the governor and federal lawmakers, know the failing foundations are a "serious problem" and are still trying to get their hands around the full scope of the issue.

"It’s important for us to get the information out," said Harris. "To make sure people know there’s an issue but not to over blow it an create a panic."

Before the advisory was sent, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said he is aware of the issue and is searching for any potential solutions to help homeowners.

"Reports of foundation failures throughout Connecticut, particularly in eastern Connecticut, are a real nightmare for homeowners," Murphy told the Troubleshooters from Washington, D.C. "I don’t know if there are federal interventions here, but we’re going to be at the ready to assist people."

Also exploring all options to help affected homeowners is Congressman Joe Courtney, who is from Vernon. Courtney's hometown and district comprise much of the affected area. Courtney said his office is "very focused" on the issue.

"We’ve had lots of communication with the homeowners' representative and helped try to facilitate communications with other state agencies, who I think clearly have to ramp up and deal with the challenges that have come up in recent weeks," said Courtney. "This really goes right to the core of people’s economic security so it’s an important issue."

Harris said he also sent the advisory to the State Board of Realtors so it can make its members aware of the problem.

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<![CDATA[State DOT Says No Bridges Affected by Failing Concrete]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:27:06 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jj+mottes+uconn+2.JPG

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.

Officials with the state Department of Transportation told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters they are confident no bridges potentially serviced by J.J. Mottes Company are at risk of failing.

J.J. Mottes concrete may have been involved in hundreds of residential foundation failures, as outlined in a July 21 Troubleshooters report.

The University of Connecticut is also reviewing records to gather all available information regarding concrete supplied to campus projects by J.J. Mottes Company.

The school's reaction comes a day after NBC Connecticut cameras captured a light blue and white J.J. Mottes truck pouring cement for an addition at the Radcliffe Hicks building on campus.

This discovery followed repeated denials by university officials that the company performed any jobs there since at least the mid-1990s, including any work for the billion-dollar "UConn 2000" project.

UConn first started keeping its own purchasing records in 1995.

Deputy spokesman Tom Breen said Thursday UConn has no records of current or previous contracts paid to J.J. Mottes because the school pays general contractors directly. Breen says the school doesn't keep records of payments from general contractors to subcontractors.

In a full statement released by UConn Friday, Breen writes:

"We’re not aware of any problems with concrete quality that would indicate a pattern, but we’re reviewing our records to make sure we have all available information. The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority, and our Division of Public Safety works hard every day to ensure our facilities are safe."

More than 125 viewers from east of the Connecticut River contacted the Troubleshooters in the time since our original investigation with details of how their concrete basement walls failed or failing. Contractors say there are many more.

All foundations need to be replaced. Homeowners say they must pay out of pocket costs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, because insurance companies immediately deny coverage. Lawyers say some affected homeowners are being rewarded with settlements from the insurance companies after filing lawsuits for the coverage denials, but the process takes at least two years.

Contractors, building officials and homeowners who know the concrete supplier say the issues are all linked to J.J. Mottes concrete supplied between the early 1980s through 1998.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has called on everyone from the public or private sector who can trace their concrete back to the company to closely monitor their foundations.

Until the Troubleshooters spotted J.J. Mottes pouring cement for the UConn project, no state agencies or institutions publicly acknowledged finding any records of J.J. Mottes producing concrete for any state jobs.

In a statement today, Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick told the Troubleshooters the agency is doing its due diligence on the matter.

In a full statement, Nursick says:

"Our agency, like other state agencies, is doing our due diligence on this matter because we have a deep responsibility to protect the public. We have examined our records, and since 1980, we have identified 98 bridges (both town and state-owned) that have been built in towns that could potentially have been serviced by JJM. To the best of our knowledge, the potential for exposure for Connecticut’s bridges is extremely, extremely small. All bridges – including those owned by towns – undergo extraordinarily meticulous inspection at least once every two years by DOT. None has exhibited any signs of problems associated with pyrrhotite. We have trained professionals – leading experts in the industry – inspecting every portion of these bridges with a fine-tooth comb. DOT has done a re-review of inspections for these 98 bridges, and they show no abnormalities, safety concerns, or any concrete degradation known to be caused by the issues that NBC Connecticut appears to be uncovering.

"As individuals, we are deeply concerned for our fellow residents whose homes may be affected by this chemical reaction. As an agency, however, we have not witnessed any similarities on any of our structures, which are tested and inspected very frequently and exceptionally rigorously. DOT requirements and standards for concrete are some of the highest in the industry. Our testing and frequent inspection system are designed exactly for this purpose – quality control and public safety. We are confident in our processes and the public should be as well. It is most likely that this company was only involved with a handful of the 98 structures we have identified in the geographic area, and no issues have been identified. As always, we will continue to inspect and monitor all of our structures very closely to verifiably assure their safety."

Some contractors say an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite is to blame for the residential foundation failures. Research suggests pyrrhotite oxidizes over time, creating a chemical reaction that causes the concrete to swell. This leads to cracking and eventual failure. Contractors say the issue could take more than a decade to arise.

The U.S. Geological Survey shows, and J.J. Mottes confirms, pyrrhotite is found in the quarry where J.J. Mottes retrieves stone used in its concrete aggregate.

J.J. Mottes declined to comment on our report from yesterday regarding work at UConn. The concrete company has declined multiple requests for comment since our original story.

In a statement for our original report, J.J. Mottes says it has received no reports of issues with concrete poured after 1998.

The company says it uses the same materials for residential, commercial and government work, "the latter two of which are rigorously tested and inspected prior to and during installation. We have and continue to meet all of the standards of our industry and the regulations of the state of Connecticut," said John Patton, a spokesperson for the Stafford Springs-based concrete and septic supplier.

For the second day in a row, the Troubleshooters saw the J.J. Mottes truck pouring cement at the Ratcliffe Hicks building on UConn's main campus in Storrs. Neither the university nor the school could confirm the concrete poured in the last two days or in any existing building is free of pyrrhotite.

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.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Concrete Company Caught on Campus]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:27:25 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jj+mottes+uconn.jpg

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.

University of Connecticut officials are backtracking on their previous assertions that J.J. Mottes Company has not supplied cement for any university projects since at least 1995 after the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters witnessed a truck for the Stafford Springs-based concrete company pouring cement for a job on the Storrs campus Thursday.

Gov. Dannel Malloy called on anyone in the public or private sector to closely monitor their foundations if they can trace their concrete to J.J. Mottes Company. The governor’s statement came a day after NBC Connecticut aired an investigation July 21 finding that concrete foundations had failed or were failing for at least hundreds of homes in eastern Connecticut since the mid-1990s.

Homeowners, contractors and building officials say the only reported issues were with concrete supplied by J.J. Mottes Company between the early 1980s through at least 1996. Contractors say they've seen problems for foundations place through 1998.

Contractors say the only fix is to tear out the existing foundation and re-pour it.

Joseph Callahan, the chief building official in Coventry, explained that if the foundations are not totally replaced, there could be a catastrophic failure of the building.

"It won’t support the wood frame structure above it. It’s a life safety issue if these are to let go," said Callahan.

Some contractors say an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite is to blame for the residential foundation failures. Research suggests air and water oxidizes the pyrrhotite, creating a chemical reaction that causes the concrete to swell. It leads to significant cracking and eventual failure. Contractors say it could take decades for the issue to arise.

The U.S. geological survey shows, and J.J. Mottes confirms, pyrrhotite is found in the quarry where the company retrieves stone for its concrete aggregate. J.J. Mottes says it has used the quarry for decades.

In a statement last week, John Patton, a spokesperson for J.J. Mottes, said the company has done more than 10,000 residential, commercial, municipal and state jobs since 1998.

Patton said there have been no reports of any issues with concrete J.J. Mottes supplied after 1998.

The company has not answered any questions regarding how many jobs they produced prior to 1998 or what those jobs were.
The Department of Transportation says its has no records of J.J. Mottes Company being paid as a vendor since at least 2008, which is how far their electronic records go back.

DOT spokesperson Kevin Nursick told the Troubleshooters the department is currently reviewing all state transportation contracts going back to the early 1980s.

The governor’s office said it has seen no records of J.J. Mottes doing any state jobs since the 1990s.

The University of Connecticut repeatedly told Troubleshooter George Colli that no records existed of J.J. Mottes doing any work currently, or since atleast 1995, including during the billion-dollar "UConn 2000" project in the 1990s.

UConn deputy spokesperson Tom Breen said the university's purchasing department took over its records in 1995. Prior to that, the state Department of Public Works oversaw projects at the university.

The Troubleshooters reached out to UConn deputy spokesperson Tom Breen after seeing a J.J. Mottes concrete truck pouring and placing cement for an addition at the Radcliffe Hicks academic building on campus. Breen explained that the school only has records for general contractors it has paid directly, not subcontractors.

Breen sent the following statement to the Troubleshooters:

"As is standard with all concrete supplied to University projects, the University retains an independent materials testing company to inspect all work related to concrete construction. The testing lab was present at the site you asked about, and sampled the fresh concrete upon delivery. The fresh concrete tested within specifications and placement of the concrete occurred. The testing lab also prepared test cylinders, which were taken to the lab for future strength testing. The strength tests are to ensure that the in-place concrete has attained the strength specified in construction documents.

"Any concrete supplied to the University which fails to attain the specified strength will be rejected and replaced at the contractor’s expense.

"Since the beginning of UConn 2000, the University has managed an unprecedented growth in its facilities, which has in turn helped UConn become one of the top-rated public research universities in the United States. Although the exact specifications of each sub-contractor and materials supplier for each capital project are not always readily searchable, the University has enjoyed productive relationships with many contractors, which it entrusts with the responsibility to make sure each project is completed within the specifications of approved construction documents."

The university has yet to respond to a follow-up question asking if the concrete being used is tested for pyrrhotite.

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.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Coverage for Failing Foundations Rare]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:27:49 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Insurance_Dept_Speaks_to_Crumbling_Foundations_1200x675_493767747913.jpg

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.

There’s very little the state insurance department can do to help homeowners with crumbling foundations that have their claims denied by their insurance provider.

Gerard O’Sullivan, director of the Consumer Affairs Division at the Department of Insurance, says it’s uncommon for homeowners policies to cover failing foundations.

"Under a homeowners policy, it’s a sudden and accident peril that is insured against," said O’Sullivan. "Not even all of those are insured."

Roughly 125 homeowners from eastern Connecticut contacted the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters following the original “Crumbling Foundations” investigation on July 21.

Contractors and building officials say the only fix is to completely replace the concrete at a cost often into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Homeowners say insurance companies immediately deny each claim.

O’Sullivan says failing foundations were not on the insurance department's radar prior to the Troubleshooters investigation because the department did not receive any complaints about the issue over the past three years. He says one complaint did come after the Troubleshooters exposed the problem.

One concern of affected homeowners is losing their insurance if they report a claim. Multiple people who dealt with the issue say insurance companies ask them to fix the foundation for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, or risk losing their coverage.

O’Sullivan says the insurance consumer affairs division is there to answer questions regarding policies or even guide people through the process of a claim. However, if a formal complaint is made, the insurance company will be notified and involved in the remediation.

O’Sullivan can’t promise protection from losing coverage.

"There is a time period and it’s not usually a direct drop," said O’Sullivan. "(The drop) would be at the renewal of the policy if it no longer meets the underwriting requirements for that company."

According to lawyers, some insurance companies are reportedly beginning to settle with homeowners denied coverage, but only after lawsuits are filed. Attorneys say it generally takes at least two years before any settlement discussion begin.

When asked why insurance companies would settle if the foundations aren’t covered to begin with, O’Sullivan says it all depends on the policy language and if the company feels it can win at trial.

"I think a lot of what we’re dealing with is the definition of 'collapse,'" said O’Sullivan.

In the week since the original investigation, Gov. Dannel Malloy and Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris acknowledged the problem is "serious" and said multiple state agencies are gathering facts and identifying the origin and cause of the issue.

Harris visited a homeowner dealing with the issue on Monday.

All affected homeowners say their foundations were placed between the early 1980s through the late 1990s, and all who can identify the concrete supplier point to J.J. Mottes Company in Stafford Springs.

Some blame an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite for causing the foundations to fail.

Research suggests that pyrrhotite oxidizes over time from contact with air and water, creating a chemical reaction that causes concrete walls to swell and expand. It creates severe cracking and pushes the home up off the foundation. Contractors say it often takes at least 15 to 20 years for the cracks to show.

The U.S. geological survey shows pyrrhotite present in the stone where J.J. Mottes retrieves their aggregate in Willington. The company confirms to the Troubleshooters it knows the pyrrhotite is present and has used Becker’s Quarry for decades.

John Patton, a spokesperson for J.J. Mottes Company, said in a statement last week the company has "begun working with managers, geologists and testing labs to review all manufacturing methods and materials."

This review began after the Troubleshooters contacted J.J. Mottes concerning the issue.

Patton also said in the statement the company has produced 10,000 residential, commercial, municipal and state jobs since 1998 without any reports of a problem.

Patton went on to say he’s aware of no project since 1998 having the "recently discovered pyrrhotite reaction."

Patton said J.J. Mottes uses the same materials for residential, commercial and government work.

The company has not commented on the problems for concrete supplied prior to 1998, and also wouldn’t disclose which state and municipal jobs it has been hired to work.

The company has declined to answer any of our questions since releasing Patton's original statement, despite the Troubleshooters' repeated attempts to obtain additional comments.

For those looking to file a formal complaint, they can do so on the Department of Insurance website or by calling the consumer affairs office.

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.

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<![CDATA[State Aware of Crumbling Foundations in 2008: Emails]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:25:51 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundation+troubleshooters+1.JPG

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.

Multiple state agencies, along with state and federal elected officials, are gathering facts and brainstorming solutions to the growing issue of crumbling foundations in eastern Connecticut.

Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris visited an East Hartford homeowner currently dealing with the issue.

Harris said he learned of the seriousness of the problem plaguing some homeowners when an NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation aired last week.

After touring the East Hartford house with homeowner Kris Keena, contractor Donald Childree and Troubleshooter George Colli, Harris made it clear he is not the only person monitoring the issue.

"It’s a serious problem. The governor realizes that. The Department of Consumer Protection realizes that. The other agencies realize that. Congressman Courtney realizes it, and we’re all going work to get the facts out to see what can be done," said Harris.

More than 100 homeowners in eastern Connecticut have contacted the Troubleshooters since our original story on crumbling foundations aired July 21. All say their foundations were placed between the early 1980s through the late 1990s, and all who can identify the concrete supplier point to J.J. Mottes Company in Stafford Springs.

Contractors and building officials say the only fix is to completely replace the concrete at a cost often into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Homeowners say insurance companies immediately deny each claim.

According to lawyers, some insurance companies are beginning to settle, but only after lawsuits are filed. They say it takes at least two years.

Freedom of Information requests show the state became aware of the issue no later than 2008. Childree, a contractor from South Windsor, filed a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection in March 2008. Childree said his email led to DCP investigators touring three homes with the distinct "map cracking" under renovation at the time.

"They took pictures and most of them were quite surprised as to how bad this problem really was," said Childree. "I haven’t heard another word from them since."

Emails obtained from the state also show state legislators, the governor’s office and the DCP trying to identify the cause and potential solution with members of the Home Builders Association as recently as February 2015.

Childree is concerned with why no warnings were given to contractors, inspectors, realtors and the public before the Troubleshooters investigation.

"They said they’d put out a bulletin and not let these be sold to unsuspecting home buyers," Childree said of his conversations with DCP in 2008.

Some blame an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite for causing the foundations to fail.

Research suggests that pyrrhotite oxidizes over time from contact with air and water, creating a chemical reaction that causes concrete walls to swell and expand. It creates severe cracking and pushes the home up off the foundation. Contractors say it often takes at least 15 to 20 years for the cracks to show.

John Patton, a spokesperson for J.J. Mottes Company, said in a statement last week the company has "begun working with managers, geologists and testing labs to review all manufacturing methods and materials."

This review began after the Troubleshooters contacted J.J. Mottes concerning the issue.

Patton also said in the statement the company has produced 10,000 residential, commercial, municipal and state jobs since 1998 without any reports of a problem.

Patton went on to say he’s aware of no project since 1998 having the "recently discovered pyrrhotite reaction."

Patton said J.J. Mottes uses the same materials for residential, commercial and government work.

The company has not commented on the problems for concrete supplied prior to 1998, and also wouldn’t disclose which state and municipal jobs it has been hired to work.

The company has declined to answer any of our questions since releasing Patton's original statement, despite the Troubleshooters' repeated attempts to obtain additional comments.

Harris, who began his role with the Department of Consumer Protection at the end of December, says the issue never stood out in the wave of complaints sent to the department each year.

"We receive thousands of complaints a year – over the last 10 years, probably 70,000 in total, and with this issue, only a handful," said Harris.

Childree, who first alerted the state seven years ago, is hopeful the warnings will now finally get to all who need to know.

"I think it’s going to get out this time," said Childree, "so no one else gets stuck with these foundations."

If you dealt with, are dealing with or fear you have the problem, email the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.

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.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Number of Affected Homeowners Growing]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:29:38 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundation.JPG

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.

The number of people reporting their issues with crumbling foundations to NBC Connecticut continues to grow.

Some have gone through the nightmare of replacing their concrete foundations. Others are currently dealing with the problem or they’re just now finding they may have the issue.

Of the nearly 70 people to contact the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, all who filed claims with their insurance companies says they were immediately denied.

Every person who has contacted us – who knows where the concrete for his or her foundation came from – says it was from J.J. Mottes out of Stafford Springs.

The few who don’t know say they purchased their homes years after they were built and are working to find out.

The earliest a foundation was poured, according to the people with whom we've spoken, was 1983. The latest was 1992. All of them are from the eastern part of the state.

Contractors and building officials say the cracking for this catastrophic problem is unique and can take 15 years or longer to show.

Many of the people sharing their stories with NBC Connecticut’s George Colli realized the seriousness of the problem for the first time when they saw our Troubleshooters investigation.

And they’re asking, "What do I do now?"

Attorneys Michael Parker, of Springfield, and Brenda Draghi, of Ellington, say they have 90 pending cases against insurance companies for denying claims.

These are the first things they say to do if you’re concerned your basement walls could be at risk of failing:

  • Contact a licensed structural engineer or building inspector with experience dealing with this type of foundation failure.
  • If they say you likely have the problem, contact an attorney, preferably one who has gone through this legal process. You may have to fork over a hefty retainer, as every settlement they’ve reached has taken at least 18 months.
  • Don’t file a claim with your insurance company until you’ve consulted an attorney. Once you file the claim, the clock starts ticking on your statute of limitations to file a suit.

J.J. Mottes Company continued to decline comment on any issues prior to 1998.

In a statement released Tuesday, J.J. Mottes company spokesperson John Patton said the company has "begun working with managers, geologists and testing labs to review all manufacturing methods and materials."

This review began after NBC Connecticut contacted J.J. Mottes concerning the issue.

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.

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<![CDATA[Crumbling Foundations: Governor Says State Is Monitoring Issue]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:29:22 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundation.JPG

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.

The state is finally taking notice of an issue of an issue plaguing eastern Connecticut homeowners for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, Gov. Dan Malloy said the state is aware of the crumbling residential foundations allegedly poured between the early 1980s to late 1990s by J.J. Mottes Company, a concrete and septic supplier in Stafford Springs.

Malloy said it’s too early to know the full scope of the problem but is concerned it’s not only concrete placed for residential homes facing the issue.

"I’ve been briefed on it. We’re looking into it," Malloy told Troubleshooter George Colli. "Obviously this is going to take quite a bit of monitoring on the private sector side, and quite frankly, on the public sector side as well."

The state Department of Transportation is going through contracts from the 1980s and early 1990s to determine if J.J. Mottes performed any work on state roads or bridges. Spokesperson Kevin Nursick said the department's electronic database only goes back to 2008 and the company is not listed as a vendor during that time.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigated the problem and found that, according to contractors and town building officials, there is no fix. They said the concrete foundations must be totally replaced.

Dozens of affected homeowners told the Troubleshooters their insurance companies immediately denied coverage for the claim. The costs could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket. Not until recently have insurance companies begun to settle with policy holders, but only after a long legal process.

Malloy said he understands the issue to be a mineral mixed with cement "causing an expedited failure rate." One contractor is more specific, saying it's pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral that, when oxidized by water and air, causes the concrete to swell and eventually crack. He said the characteristics of the cracking he’s seen in up to 75 homes is unique to the chemical reaction caused by pyrrhotite.

Malloy acknowledges this is not a situation anyone wants to face.

"We’ve just learned in the last 10 days that this is a condition that they’ve discovered, so it's way too early,'" said Malloy. "Folks who can trace their cement to that particular site are going to have to monitor it."

J.J. Mottes declined to comment on the governor’s remarks, but in a statement released Tuesday, company spokesperson John Patton said the company has had no reported issues with its concrete poured after 1998.

In the statement, Patton did not address the reported issues encountered prior to '98.

Contractors say the cracks often don’t begin to show for 15 years.

The company acknowledges it's just "begun working with managers, geologists and testing labs to review manufacturing methods and materials."

This review began this week only after NBC Connecticut first contacted them.

Many viewers contacted NBC Connecticut following the investigation airing on Tuesday. If you’re concerned you could have the issue with a J.J. Mottes-poured concrete foundation, email troubleshooters@nbcconnecticut.com with your story and pictures.

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.

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<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters Investigates Crumbling Foundations]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:28:08 -0500https://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/crumbling+foundation+troubleshooters.jpg

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.

Basement walls are crumbling across a section of eastern Connecticut and few seem to know why.

The issue has plagued some homeowners for nearly 20 years.

According to contractors and building officials from South Windsor to Willington, the only fix is for the foundation walls to be removed and re-poured. In each known case, insurance companies immediately deny the coverage claim.

Donald Childree, a general contractor from South Windsor, says he’s been in up to 75 different homes with the issue. He says it begins with hairline horizontal cracks, often more than 15 years after the foundation is originally placed. In time, map cracking develops, with some cracks big enough to fit a hand in.

"You’re looking at a minimum of $125,000 upwards to $200-250,000," Childree said, of the cost to replace the foundations. "Insurance companies absolutely will not cover anything."

Dozens of affected homeowners, contractors and building officials claim all of the failed foundations were poured between the early 1980s through 1998 by J.J. Mottes Company, a concrete and septic supplier out of Stafford Springs.

Dean Soucy is a general contractor out of Tolland. He says he’s received a "call or two per week" over the last several years from homeowners with the same issue.

He says each foundation he’s seen with the similar, distinct cracking was poured by J.J. Mottes Company in the '80s or '90s.

"This is like an epidemic as far as the housing industry is concerned," said Soucy, as he brought the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters through the basement of an affected home in Ellington.

Joseph Callahan, chief building official in Coventry, says all of the issues he’s seen in his 26 years of working in Coventry and Manchester were from J.J. Mottes concrete.

"I’ve never encountered anybody who had a foundation failure with anyone else’s concrete," said Callahan.

Towns don’t require permits for concrete foundations, but dozens of affected homeowners say it was J.J. Mottes Company who poured their concrete.

According to its website, J.J. Mottes Company was created in 1947.

In a statement, J.J. Mottes Company spokesperson John Patton did not comment on any issues prior to 1998, the year he purchased the company from in-laws.

His statement reads:

"The current ownership of the Joseph J. Mottes Company has been in place for 15 years. During this time, it has produced ready mix concrete for approximately 10,000 different residential, commercial, municipal and state jobs. We are aware of no project, not one, that has had the recently discovered phenomenon of pyrrhotite reaction and we have not been notified by either state regulators or industry sources of this alleged problem.

"We produce our concrete using sand, water, granite stone, Type I/II cement and standard industrial admixtures and use the exact same materials for our residential, commercial, and government work - the latter two of which are rigorously tested and inspected prior to and during installation. We have and continue to meet all of the standards of our industry and the regulations of the State of Connecticut.

"There are many factors that go into producing a good concrete product. Quality concrete mix handled improperly in the installation process or installed in unfavorable site conditions can result in a poor quality foundation.

"We have begun working with our managers, geologists and testing labs to review our manufacturing methods and materials to eliminate even the slightest possibility of this problem occurring with our Ready-Mix concrete. We are confident that the products we are producing today will continue to meet the needs of the surrounding region."

The statement does not address the alleged issues of foundations poured from the early 1980s to 1998, and contractors say the issues often take longer than 15 years for the concrete to show signs of failure.

What’s causing the issue has mystified homeowners, contractors and the state for close to 20 years, but Donald Childree believes he has the answer. He says an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite is to blame.

Research suggests the effects of pyrrhotite in stone used as concrete aggregate could be catastrophic. Over time, water and air oxidize the pyrrhotite, creating a chemical reaction. This causes the concrete to swell and expand, leading to the cracking, and eventually raising the home from the foundation.

In one region of Quebec, Canada, the government set up an emergency fund to pay for hundreds of homes with crumbling basements affected by pyrrhotite in the concrete.

pyrrhotite is pretty rare in Connecticut, but according the U.S. Geological Survey, it is found in Willington at Becker’s Quarry. Becker’s Quarry is owned by the family that owns J.J. Mottes Company. The company confirmed the quarry is where J.J. Mottes has obtained stone used in their concrete aggregate for decades.

Sources confirm pyrrhotite was found in testing on some foundations consisting of J.J. Mottes-poured concrete. Court records reference reports describing an iron sulfide chemical reaction creating the foundation failures.

We cannot determine whether or not the mineral was present in all the failed basement walls because most were not tested, and settlements of litigation with their insurers prevent homeowners from disclosing the findings.

Linda Tofolowsky, formerly of Tolland, says she was the first homeowner to notice the intense cracks on her basement walls, a little over 10 years after they moved into a home on Kent Road South in 1985. She says her insurance company denied her claim. Tofolowsky says she tried to seek help from the town and the state, and eventually the courts.

The Tofolowskys took J.J. Mottes Company to court, alleging claims for product liability. In 2003, the company was found not liable for installing faulty concrete based on strength testing and a finding that the problems with the foundation were caused by the installer rather than a defect in concrete.

However, we found no record that the concrete from the Tofolowskys' home was tested for pyrrhotite. The court also found the Tofolowskys' claim fell outside the 10-year statute of limitations.

Walter Zaldwy built his home in 1988 in Willington. He says J.J. Mottes supplied the concrete for his foundation. He never questioned why his insurance company sent him a notice in 2008 stating his foundation would no longer be covered – until he started noticing the spider cracks on his walls growing within the last year.

"Looking back, I’m wondering, how did they get this information to decide they weren’t covering basement foundations anymore?" Zaldwy said.

Zaldwy now must decide if he can afford to pay the hefty cost of replacing the foundation or just walk away from his biggest investment.

"I spent a good part of my life trying to work and to achieve the American dream by owning the home to have it fall out from underneath me," he said.

There is some hope for homeowners. While still denying claims, insurance companies are starting to settle with some homeowners, but it often only after a long legal battle.

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.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>