Connecticut’s Crumbling Concrete: Coordinating Federal Resources for a Non-Declared Event

U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Posted on: 4/27/2020 - Updated on: 3/11/2021

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As many as 34,000 homes constructed in northeastern Connecticut between 1983 and 2000 may have concrete foundations containing pyrrhotite and are at risk of cracking or crumbling. Pyrrhotite is an iron sulfide that can be found naturally in aggregates, or rocky materials such as gravel, sand, or stone that are added to cement to make concrete. When iron sulfides are exposed to oxygen and water, a series of chemical reactions convert the iron sulfides into other compounds. These other compounds are expansive – take up more space than the original iron sulfides – and ultimately lead to cracks or holes in the concrete. The cracks in the concrete foundations grow over time, putting the inhabitants of the homes at risk. Reports of crumbling foundations first began in 2015. By May 2017, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (CDCP) had received reports of more than 550 homes with faulty foundations, and in December 2017 began processing 522 verified reports to determine compensation eligibility. Collectively, this issue is damaging to the Connecticut housing market and devastating to individual homeowners, whose home value decreases significantly if pyrrhotite is present. Potentially, tens of thousands of Connecticut residents may be affected, and the potential economic impact to the state’s housing market could approach up to $1 billion.

Lessons Learned

  • Interagency collaboration was crucial for Connecticut to effectively and efficiently address the crumbling concrete foundations affecting homeowners in the state.
  • The strong working relationships among federal partners, state leadership and in particular, the state’s emergency management agency, and stakeholders led to informed decisions that leveraged federal resources for state-level assistance.
  • In a non-declared event, federal partners can still provide resources, expertise, communication networks, and other assistance for local recovery efforts.

Affiliated Organizations

FEMA’s mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. The challenges posed by more intense storms, frequent heavy rain, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding, and higher sea levels could lead to increased risks from disasters faced by communities and the emergency management professionals serving them.