Politics

Crumbling foundations impacting local homeowners

MONSON, Mass. (WWLP) – A mineral that causes concrete to crumble has been used to build homes in the area for decades, resulting in an expensive nightmare for homeowners. The 22News I-Team discovered that thousands of homes in Massachusetts could be at risk of having a crumbling foundation.

Michelle Loglisci remembers that 1997 day with happy memories – the concrete for her new home in Monson was finally going in the ground. Loglisci and her husband planned to eventually sell the home to their son when they were ready to retire.

“We had planned to downsize and buy a small lake house and live happily ever after,” she told the I-Team.

Those dreams have now literally crumbled away right before their eyes. The foundation of their home has tested positive for pyrrhotite, a naturally-occurring mineral that causes concrete to slowly deteriorate as it’s exposed to oxygen and water.

Michelle Loglisci shows the I-Team the cracks in her foundation at her home in Monson.

Mike Milanese noticed the tell-tale horizontal spider-web cracks in his foundation at his home in Wales about four years ago. When he took down the drywall in his finished basement a few months ago, he saw that his foundation was cracking and crumbling away. The damage is irreversible and can take up to 20 years to appear.

Mike Milanese has extensive cracking and crumbling in his foundation at his home in Wales.

The only solution to this problem is lifting the house up off the ground, digging out the crumbling foundation, filling it back in with good concrete, then setting the house back down. This is an extremely expensive process. Milanese was quoted at $130,000.

“I just finished paying off my mortgage,” Milanese said. “I don’t want to take out another one.”

Loglisci was quoted at $263,000.

“There’s just no possible way we can afford to do that, unless we pull out of our retirement funds and don’t retire,” she explained.

Right now, Massachusetts does not offer any money to help people pay for a new foundation. Insurance won’t cover it until the house falls down.

The state does reimburse homeowners, like Justin Mathieu, to test for pyrrhotite. His home in Wales tested positive.

“I have slab on grade construction,” Mathieu explained. “I have four foot frost walls and footings, three inch slab. The slab is bad as well. They would have to take everything out – cabinets, toilets, all our furnishings have to come out.”

Just to remove the bad concrete, it would cost him about $174,000. That doesn’t include new floors, landscaping, or a place to keep all his belongings while the project goes on.

“I paid less than that for the house and the property,” Mathieu said. “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.”

The cracks from pyrrhotite, a naturally-occurring mineral that causes concrete to slowly deteriorate as it’s exposed to oxygen and water.

The concrete was poured by now defunct JJ Mottes in Stafford Springs, Connecticut from 1983 to 2015.
A state commission has determined that homes built during that time within a 50-mile radius of the quarry could contain pyrrhotite. That’s about 95,000 homes, although there is not an exact number of projects JJ Mottes supplied concrete for because of “a lack of documentation.”

A JJ Mottes cement truck pours concrete into the foundation of a home in Monson in 1997.

The commission said cities and towns within a 20-mile radius are the most likely to have homes with this mineral, including western Massachusetts communities such as Brimfield, Palmer, Hampden, Wilbraham, Springfield, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Ludlow, Ware, Belchertown, and Agawam.

“We are now starting to see it in more places in central Massachusetts, so it is very concerning,” State Senator Anne Gobi said.

Above is a map of where pyrrhotite could naturally occur in the region. There is real concern that there may be more quarries here in Massachusetts that contain pyrrhotite, and it’s still being used today.

“Which is scary because then you just don’t know how many homes are affected, or how many businesses,” said commission member and State Representative Brian Ashe.

The 22News I-Team has identified multiple quarries located within the red area.

“I find it highly unlikely and against common sense to think that there is not a quarry somewhere in Massachusetts that has this mineral in it, as well, unbeknownst to anyone,” said Loglisci. “I find it unlikely that homes as far north as Holden and Rutland would be poured from a company in Connecticut.”

Legislation to help combat this issue is in the committee phase at the statehouse in Boston right now.
Part of the bill would require testing of quarries so concrete with pyrrhotite is no longer being used in Massachusetts. There are other parts to the bill that would help families dealing with this devastating issue get the help and money they need. That I-Team airs Thursday, July 22 at 6:00 PM.

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