25 Investigates: Quarry testing requirement stalls on Beacon Hill as local homes continue to crumble

A provision that would requires Massachusetts quarries to test for pyrrhotite was not included the state budget which was finalized over the weekend at the Statehouse, but is still under consideration.

As 25 Investigates reported last November, pyrrhotite is a naturally occurring mineral. It is considered a contaminant in concrete because over time – typically 15 to 20 years – it begins to expand and break apart when exposed to water and air.

The testing requirement was proposed by Massachusetts State Senator Anne Gobi. Gobi represents parts of Worcester and Hampden Counties, where an increasing number of home foundations are failing due to the presence of pyrrhotite in the concrete that was used to pour them.

Senator Gobi told 25 Investigates she’s disappointed the required testing was not included in this weekend’s budget discussions, while advocates hammer out compromise language with Governor Baker’s office. But she said she feels confident they will get there soon, hopefully this fall.

According to Senator Gobi, quarries are already required to test certain contaminants and adding pyrrhotite to the list will eventually put an end to the crumbling foundation problem here.

“If we start testing tomorrow, we know that we’re going to have an end date, hopefully no more than 30 years from now,” she said.

25 Investigates visited a Rutland home while it was lifted off the ground for a foundation replacement. Joanne Demore said her home tested positive for pyrrhotite in December after a home inspector for a potential buyer observed map or spider cracking in her basement. Demore was forced to take her house off the market and make the costly repairs. Replacing a foundation typically costs at least $200,000.

“You’re devastated at first, but then you’re like, well, we got to do it,” Demore said, “I actually consider myself a little bit more lucky that I did have enough equity where I could do this on my own. There’s a lot of homeowners that don’t.”

As 25 Investigates reported, a quarry in Willington, Connecticut has been identified as a major source of pyrrhotite. Our team has learned Massachusetts is now in the process of identifying contaminated quarries here.

“We know our concrete didn’t come out of Connecticut. We know there’s at least one, probably two or three quarries in Massachusetts. They could still be pouring homes that are coming out of an affected quarry,” Demore said.

Nobody will name the Massachusetts quarries that may have distributed pyrrhotite but they are believed to be in the central part of the state where a large vein of the mineral runs.

Senator Gobi has also proposed legislation that would reimburse homeowners the cost of a foundation replacement but the bill remains stuck on Beacon Hill.

Gary Bellows’ Rutland home tested positive late last year. He says his wife talked about retiring but with a foundation replacement looming, retirement is no longer an option.

“We really do need help from the state to come in and help financially to help people pay for that. I think there’s gonna be a lot more houses like this, I know of others already,” Bellows said.

Massachusetts will reimburse homeowners in certain communities most of the cost of testing for pyrrhotite. The process includes removing a core sample and having it examined at a certified lab.

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