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Pyrrhotite, what is it?

Pyrrhotite, an ore that is found naturally in the ground, rhymes today with “disaster” for thousands of owners who are victims.

The file spans more than a decade.



Pyrrhotite, what is it?

Pyrrhotite is a mineral species composed of iron sulphide which oxidizes on contact with air and humidity.

The mineral then produces sulfuric acid which  reacts with calcium and aluminates in concrete. The reaction then causes cracking and disintegration of the foundation.

This is why pyrrhotite is so  problematic for owners.

Once the first cracks appear,  usually between three and five years after casting, the process is impossible to interrupt or correct.

The only solution for an affected property is the complete reconstruction of its foundation, which requires a series of expensive works.



The problem in Quebec.

The problem has its origins in the 1990s, when two quarries in Mauricie produced stone with a high pyrrhotite content.

This “contaminated” stone has been used in the construction of hundreds of homes for almost a decade.

This is how many owners, particularly in Mauricie and on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, are facing serious problems due to the presence of pyrrhotite.

According to the Coalition to Support Pyrrhotite Victims, the the number of victims is now more than 2,000.

With a average repair cost of $ 200,000 per single-family home , the damage caused by pyrrhotite would amount to over a billion dollars.

The real drama, however, lies in the poor coverage of homeowners by a guarantee plan.

Only 35% of victims would benefit from such coverage, while the others must bear the cost of repair since private insurance policies do not cover this kind of damage.

This is how the Quebec government, in 2011, offered victims several financial aids now total $ 52 million .

For its part, the federal government agreed to a aid of $ 30 million in 2016 .

In 2014, SNC-Lavalin and other entrepreneurs were ordered to pay 198 million dollars in compensation . By appealing the judgment of the Superior Court, no amount has yet been paid .

As a result, through the Coalition to Help Victims of Pyrrhotite, the owners are asking the federal government that the $ 280 million that SNC-Lavalin will have to pay following its conviction for fraud in 2019, be paid to them. paid.



The rate of pyrrhotite.

A whole other problem exists as to an acceptable level of pyrrhotite in the composition of a house.

How much of a foundation’s disintegration is due solely to the presence of pyrrhotite, and not to the poor quality of the concrete?

The Program for residences damaged by pyrrhotite from the Société d’habitation du Québec is offered in particular to owners with a pyrrhotite level greater than 0.23%.

But what happens when a property has a slightly lower rate? A hypothetical rate of 0.20% does not make you eligible for the assistance program, but may still harm you.

Not only could problems directly related to pyrrhotite come to light later, but it will be much more difficult to find a potential buyer if you want to sell your home.

A real gray area where pyrrhotite potentially reduces the value of your home.

This is why the Coalition to Aid Pyrrhotite Victims campaign for a rate similar to European standards of 0.10%.



Sanitary risks.

In itself, the  pyrrhotite does not directly pose a risk to the physical health of occupants.

However, the degradation of a foundation that it generates facilitates the infiltration of  radon  and water .

The first is recognized as a major cause of lung cancer, while the second promotes the proliferation of molds that can be seriously damaging to health.

We cannot pass over in silence the psychological problems caused by pyrrhotite.



Another setback for SNC-Lavalin.

SNC-Lavalin has appealed to the courts to try to demonstrate the responsibility of other actors in the pyrrhotite saga, with the aim that they can pay part of the damages that the company and its partners were ordered to pay. to victims.

In a judgment rendered Thursday, the Superior Court of Quebec, however, did not rule in favor of the Canadian multinational.

SNC-Lavalin sought to demonstrate the responsibility of the Lafarge Canada company, the manufacturer of the cement powder used to make concrete, as well as of a geologist employed by Lafarge Canada, Marie de Grosbois.

Judge Pierre Ouellet concludes that neither Lafarge Canada nor its geologist Marie de Grosbois committed any fault. They are therefore not responsible for the damage caused to the victims of pyrrhotite and do not have to contribute to their compensation.

850 homeowners struggling with pyrrhotite  received financial compensation last August for the damage suffered after more than 10 years of legal battle. They shared about $ 125 million.

The second wave of trials has more than 800 victims. These are people whose construction dates for their building are different from those of the first wave.





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31 October 2022

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