Asbestos Problems At Copper Lounge


A phone call following the collapse of the Copper Lounge building in downtown Sioux Falls on December 2, 2016 led to a $20,151 fine for Hultgren Construction.  ‚Äč

After the collapse and prior to the building’s demolition, a Sioux Falls city official called to find out if there was any asbestos inside the Copper Lounge. According to state documents, Hultgren Construction hadn’t checked, which is required by law.  

When you remove asbestos from an old building, there are a lot of rules. First, you need to have an asbestos inspection to find out what you’re dealing with. Additionally, the people working with it need to be specially trained, it needs to go into an airtight container, and when you drop it off at the landfill, you need to let them know that it contains asbestos. 

According to state documents, Hultgren Construction didn’t do any of those things.  

In fact, according to state documents, Hultgren employees, including Ethan McMahon, who died in the collapse, removed more than 380 linear feet of asbestos wrap from the Copper Lounge basement. The documents say they weren’t properly trained. 

Thursday KELOLAND News spoke with Chad Babcock, asbestos coordinator with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who was in Pierre.

“Asbestos is a known carcinogen, so there’s the necessary emission control and waste disposal requirements to protect workers that do the removal along with, in this instance, the landfill workers that would be potentially handling the material on site,” Babcock said.

Babcock told KELOLAND News that once asbestos is buried, it’s not going to be a breathing hazard. And, he says, it was buried at the landfill.

Hultgren and the state reached an agreement a few months later.  

In the paperwork, the construction company didn’t admit to breaking any laws, but it did agree to follow state and federal laws in the future. 

The state also agreed to waive the fine because Hultgren didn’t have the money. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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