South Dakota construction company accused of improper asbestos disposal

A South Dakota construction company improperly disposed of asbestos-laden material in a local landfill. Hultgren Construction, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, failed to file the legally required documents before removing the asbestos from the Copper Lounge job site, and the material was dumped in the Sioux Falls Regional Landfill’s general construction debris area rather than its hazardous waste area.

Allegedly, crews rolled the asbestos into plastic garbage bags, trucked the material through town and illegally buried it at the landfill. Landfill officials accepted the bags without knowing they contained asbestos.

The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had previous conversations with Aaron Hultgren, Hultgren Construction president, about asbestos disposal requirements.

Hultgren is already under federal criminal investigation for its role in the Dec. 2, 2016, death of employee Ethan McMahon. The former Copper Lounge building collapsed on McMahon during a construction project, but federal officials have declined to identify the focus of their investigation.

An investigation on the asbestos removal ended in May and documents say that Hultgren has been fined $20,000 by the state. A former Sioux Falls building services director contacted DENR to determine if the required asbestos records had been filed. After DENR said there were no records, the director contacted Hultgren and was told there was no asbestos inspection information.

DENR contracted GeoTek Engineering and Testing Services, Sioux Falls, to obtain an inventory of asbestos taken in 1999. Asbestos wrap used to insulate basement pipe was in the inventory, but when DENR officials inspected the job site on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7, the material was gone.

Officials found remnants of the pipe wrap during the investigation. Crews who removed the asbestos wore proper protective gear, including body suits, rubber gloves and goggles, and sprayed the wrap with water, but they were not certified to remove asbestos.