Pyrrhotite Contaminated Concrete – A Call for Collaboration

Map showing area in MA and CT with pyrrhotite contaminated concrete

In Biblical fashion, more than 34,000 residential foundations in Connecticut and Massachusetts were built on sand between 1983 and 2016.  Not literally, but many if not most residential concrete foundations containing pyrrhotite aggregate from Becker’s Quarry in Willington, CT and mixed by JJ Mottes Concrete in Stafford Springs, CT will need to be repaired or replaced eventually. Those that contain pyrrhotite and have not (yet) shown evidence of failure will remain suspect and likely impact the value of the real estate.  This article focuses on the single-family residential sector but the problem may be wider. Connecticut DOT asserted that pyrrhotite concrete has not impacted its structures. However, there is visual evidence that some commercial and multi-family residential structures are showing telltale signs of pyrrhotite deterioration. What is known is that thousands of pyrrhotite foundations are crumbling in a slow-motion disaster.  The cost of correction currently ranges from $150,000 to $350,000, for lifting and fully replacing foundations. The economic impact on the region is immense. Connecticut officials have already identified approximately 50 towns affected by pyrrhotite foundations.  Only about 700 buildings have been officially reported to date in Connecticut. However, Governor Malloy estimates that over 34,000 homes might be affected. Massachusetts …

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Reality Bites – Caught “Lead Handed” on TV

Do TV contractors poison their real world customers? According to an EPA press release dated June 5, 2018: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Magnolia Waco Properties, LLC, which does business as Magnolia Homes, have reached a settlement to resolve alleged violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule), related to home renovations conducted without adequate lead paint protections as depicted on the television program Fixer Upper. Under the terms of the settlement, Magnolia will take steps to ensure compliance with lead-based paint regulations in future renovation projects, address lead-based paint hazards at high-risk homes in Waco, Texas, and educate the public to lead-based paint hazards and appropriate renovation procedures.” Allegedly, according to a November 29, 2017 administrative complaint, Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” and owners of Magnolia Waco Properties, LLC (d/b/a Magnolia Homes), “did not comply with all of the requirements of the RRP Rule in renovations it performed in 33 properties in the Waco, Texas.” Getting caught “lead handed” on national TV is sort of the opposite of demonstrating competence in the building industry. Who would have thought that the RRP applied on television or …

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EPA Still Says Get the Lead Out

Through back channels only at the time of this writing, EPA announced the results of its “Section 610” review of the lead safe rules (RRP). One of the interesting findings is that since the RRP rules were first issued, the science behind lead contamination has changed. In the announcement of the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics dated April 2018, the EPA recognizes that lead is even more toxic than previously understood. On first reading of the 67-page announcement, it appears that this fact is significant in EPA’s reasoning behind keeping the rule intact and not re-instituting the old opt-out waiver. The conclusion is that danger still exists, that the overall economic costs of lead poisoning outweigh the costs of compliance, and finally that the issue of high false positive lead test kits is not sufficient to weaken the lead protection. [Copy of EPA Section 610 Review here or see pdf at end of article] The review considered fifteen public comments related to the 610 Review, as well as providing a discretionary response to another twenty comments received during prior comment periods on the accuracy of test kits. The comments and EPA’s responses were in the following categories: lead test …

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Smile – Caught on RRP Camera

Still photo of contractors sanding residence

EPA Crowdsourcing lead paint enforcement in New England Crowdsourcing The practice of outsourcing a job or task that is traditionally performed by employees or a contracted company to a non-organized, usually large group of people, generally in the form of an open call or competition. Note to self: Don’t break law in plain sight of your competition Late last year, I found a long version of a YouTube video showing two men dry-sanding a residence in Rockland, Maine. The video was shaky and amateurish but had a series of captions describing a fairly complete list of alleged violations of the EPA’s new RRP Rule, which mandates lead-safe paint removal practices on pre-1978 housing. I was searching for photos while updating a PowerPoint presentation on the Legal Aspects of the EPA Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair & Painting (RRP) Rule. I showed it to a group of contractors at my next seminar and heard some gasps. I warned: “Be careful, these days everybody has a video camera.” The seminar was one of my many efforts teach contractors about legal risk mitigation strategies. Lead paint dust is poisonous, especially for children. At the time of the video, the EPA had not yet enforced any …

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Roofing Snow Jobs – Contractor Door-to-Door Sales

  Door-to-Door Sales and the FTC Home Solicitation Sales Act So a contractor gets a call from a frantic homeowner in Massachusetts.  She pleads with the contractor to come out right away and fix something.  She says it is an emergency!  The CNN “Severe Weather Forecast” predicted more heavy snow and warned that some roofs may need to be shoveled off. The contractor arrives to check out the situation; there is no real emergency but the owner is plainly motivated to hire the contractor to do building maintenance tasks right away.  On the spot, the contractor sees an opportunity to make an easy buck, writes out a contract for $999, the owner happily signs (after all, she thinks it is an emergency), and the contractor gets started right away. Either not thinking about it or thinking that a) because the cost of the job was under $1,000; or b) because the services were technically not construction services; or c) because the owner said it was an emergency, the contractor did not provide the homeowner with the statutory 3-Day Notice of Cancellation Form.  Big Mistake! Later that day the homeowner pays the $999 in cash and is given a receipt for the work. She …

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