WASHINGTON — The Government Accountability Office will outline regulatory and legislative actions Congress could take to help mitigate the cost of crumbling foundations in Connecticut under legislation approved this week in the Senate.
A $154.2 billion spending bill for the departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Interior and Housing and Urban Development that cleared the Senate this week included provisions sought by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy to assess the damage done by concrete containing pyrrhotite, and to offer suggestions on ways to mitigate homeowners’ financial losses.
More than 635 homeowners in eastern Connecticut have reported crumbling foundation problems to the state Department of Consumer Protection, but the problem is thought to be much bigger; some say it could impact as many as 30,000 homes. The crumbling foundation is thought to be caused by a chemical called pyrrhotite that was found within the aggregate from a quarry that has since been closed. The chemical reacts with water and sunlight to cause the concrete to crumble. Homeowners have been hesitant to come forward because the problem significantly devalues their homes and many don’t have the $150,000 to $200,000 required to replace the faulty foundations which cannot be repaired.
Aside from the GAO assessment, the bill would direct the U.S. Geological Survey to create a nationwide map showing where pyrrhotite can be found. The provisions were first added to the bill by Representatives Joe Courtney and John Larson when the House approved the legislation last month.
“These new programs will ensure future homebuilders do not use concrete from quarries with pyrrhotite. There’s a lot more that needs to be done, and I will continue to fight every day for federal assistance to solve this crisis,” Murphy said.
“These two amendments will help to further our understanding of this devastating natural disaster — answering critical questions such as where else pyrrhotite has been found, the fiscal impact of the crisis, and existing regulations and legislation that could be tapped to provide urgently needed direct aid to property owners. Local and state governments have stepped up, and I am pleased that Congress is beginning to do so as well,” Blumenthal said.
Murphy said that the spending bill also has key investments for Connecticut including:
• $1.9 billion for Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor rail;
• $405 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which funds research at UConn on topics like food safety, water resources, climate variability, and sustainable plant and animal production systems;
• $300 million for the Smith-Lever program, which supports UConn’s beginning farmer outreach and Connecticut 4-H programs;
• $12 million for Long Island Sound Geographic Program;
• $9.5 million to monitor water quality at beaches;
• $180,000 for Coltsville National Historic Park;
• $300,000 for New England National Scenic Trail, a 215-mile hiking trail that travels through 41 communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The spending bill also included an amendment from Blumenthal to allow Amtrak to once again provide discounted tickets to veterans. In March, Amtrak ended a program that had provided them and their family members with a 15 percent discount.