WALES, Mass. (WWLP) – Crumbling foundations have been found in homes spanning Hampden and Worcester counties. It’s a problem that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. The 22News I-Team discovered what is being done to try to help homeowners who are impacted by this issue.
“We are going to continue to try to help these folks out. It’s a top 10 priority with me,” said Congressman Richard Neal. But, before the federal government can help, the state government needs to pass a bill that’s stuck in committee at the Statehouse.
There is a bill in the committee phase at the statehouse in Boston right now. It would help homeowners get some financial assistance to deal with crumbling foundations, and would prevent bad concrete from being used in the future. Tax abatements, permit fee waivers, and disclosure notices are also included in the bill.
Foundations of homes in more than a dozen communities have tested positive for pyrrhotite – a naturally occurring mineral in concrete poured by now defunct JJ Mottes in Connecticut – that causes concrete to slowly deteriorate as it’s exposed to oxygen and water. A special commission created by the state to study the impact of this problem estimates that JJ Mottes worked on about 1,500 homes. The cost to fully restore foundations is estimated at $350,000,000.
“It’s extremely complicated because it’s never happened before and it’s nothing we’ve seen before,” explained State Representative Brian Ashe.
The only way to fix it right now is lifting the home, digging out the bad concrete, pouring in a new foundation, then dropping the house back down. It’s a process that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and is not covered by insurance.
“I’m hoping legislation to help pay for this,” said Mike Milanese, a wales homeowner who has a crumbling foundation. “I don’t want to reach into my pocket and take out $130K of my retirement and rebuild what I’ve already built many years ago.”
“We need to try to find out a way for people to access some money,” explained State Senator Anne Gobi.
The bill in committee is a crucial step. It would allow a “captive insurance company” to operate in Massachusetts. This would authorize a qualified group to manage and distribute any state, local or federal funds to homeowners impacted by crumbing concrete. Michelle Loglisci, who’s home in Monson has crumbling concrete, calls this step one.
“(Without it) there would be nobody to manage the funds, or to make sure the projects are being done properly, or that contractors are properly licensed,” she said. “Even if we had money from the federal government, we don’t have the mechanism to manage it. “We need to allow that to happen.”
State Senator Gobi said she wants to start a fund for impacted homeowners with a portion of the $5 billion in American Rescue Plan funding the state received.
The red on the above map shows where pyrrhotite could naturally occur in the region. Another part of the bill would make it mandatory to test quarries in Massachusetts – some of which are located in the red region. This would ensure the mineral is never used in concrete again.
“We need to know where the pyrrhotite is so we can warn the people that deal with the aggregate industry because obviously they don’t want to be putting a product in people’s homes that is going to cause a problem 15-20 years from now,” Gobi said.
Right now, the only help offered by Massachusetts is testing reimbursement. Homeowners within a 20-mile radius of JJ Mottes can get a visual test done, and get 100% back up to $400. For core testing, homeowners can get 75% back up to $5,000.
“We are trying to work through this methodically and make sure we are doing everything so people that are impacted by this don’t have to worry, they don’t have to say ‘what am I going to do?’ We want people to come out and say ‘we’ve got this and we want to get it fixed’,” said Ashe.
Resources for homeowners:
Down in Connecticut where crumbling foundations have also been a huge problem, there is a fund to help homeowners pay for a new foundation. So far, the state has given out millions of dollars to help repair homes in the northeast part of the state. It’s paid for through a $12 surcharge on everyone’s homeowner’s insurance.