Share story

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A construction company renovating a former Sioux Falls lounge exposed workers and the public to asbestos before the building collapsed last year, a state investigation found.

Hultgren Construction violated federal and state laws for removing and disposing of hazardous material in October 2016, the Argus Leader reported .

The company didn’t file legally-required paperwork before removing asbestos from the downtown Copper Lounge construction site. State officials said the asbestos was placed into plastic garbage bags, trucked through town and illegally dumped at the city’s landfill.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources investigation found that company transported 46 loads of material to the landfill between Oct. 5 and Dec. 2.

Chad Babcock, an environmental specialist with the department, said he believes the asbestos-containing material was contained in two loads. He said officials at the landfill “unknowingly accepted” the bags of asbestos-containing materials.

The investigation found that the employees who removed asbestos-containing wrap that insulates basement pipe were not certified for asbestos removal, which is illegal.

“Asbestos fibers if airborne can be inhaled and are shown to be the cause of several diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and others,” said David Ganje, an environmental lawyer.

The newspaper obtained documents Wednesday showing the state levied a $20,000 fine against the company. Sioux Falls didn’t penalize the company for the asbestos disposal.

The state investigation into the asbestos removal concluded in May but wasn’t publicly addressed.

Hultgren Construction is also under federal investigation for its role in the building collapse that killed one employee.


Information from: Argus Leader,