Trinity Program to Assist Homeowners Grappling with Crumbling Foundations

Environmental Science Faculty and Students Partner with Local Organization on Affordable Concrete Testing Program

​Jonathan Gourley and Christoph Geiss present at a Nov. 4 CCACB meeting in Ellington. (Photos courtesy of the CCACB)

Hartford, Connecticut, November 9, 2017 – Homeowners in northeastern Connecticut with deteriorating concrete foundations will soon have a new concrete-testing option that professors at Trinity College have developed. The Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements (CCACB) has announced that it is partnering with Trinity College’s Environmental Science Program to provide a more affordable core sample testing source for homeowners.

The CCACB will manage collection of the concrete samples and Trinity College faculty and students will complete the testing and provide written reports. Trinity faculty members leading this partnership are Professor of Environmental Science and Physics and Director of the Environmental Science Program Christoph Geiss and Senior Lecturer and Lab Coordinator Jonathan Gourley. Geiss’s field of expertise is geophysics and Gourley’s field of expertise is geology.

The heart of Trinity College’s analysis is a magnetic measurement. “When I heard that the mineral involved in the failing concrete was pyrrhotite, I thought: ‘Pyrrhotite is a magnetic mineral. I have been measuring magnetic properties of rocks for decades,’” said Geiss.

“Dr. Geiss and Dr. Gourley contacted CCACB earlier this year wanting to help,” said Tim Heim, president of the CCACB. “During the summer, I provided them with more than 20 blind samples of concrete I had collected from around the region. Many of the samples were from homes I knew were affected—homes already being fixed or younger homes that had been confirmed. But I also included concrete from outside the affected region that shouldn’t have pyrrhotite in it. Their testing was spot-on accurate,” said Heim.


​Joe Ruggiero ’19, center, joined Professors Gourley and Geiss at the
Nov. 4 CCACB meeting attended by hundreds of area homeowners.
 Geiss said, “This project incorporates everything we do here at Trinity. What began as research interests by the faculty has quickly developed to include our students, who will participate in the analyses and learn how to apply their science to the greater good.”

Details and pricing for the concrete testing will be finalized by the end of the calendar year. The program may be running as early as January 2018.

The Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements (CCACB) is a grassroots alliance of homeowners affected by pyrrhotite. To learn more, please visit www.ccacb.org.