Wisconsin corn mill agrees to pay $940K to settle permit violations

Lawsuit alleged multiple violations at a plant that was the scene of a fatal explosion in 2017

Didion Milling facility in Cambria after the May 2017 explosion
The Didion Milling, Inc. plant in Cambria, Wisc. after the fatal May 2017 explosion. Photo courtesy of CBS 58

A milling company has agreed to pay $940,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging multiple violations at a plant that was the scene of a fatal explosion in 2017, state Justice Department officials announced Wednesday.

The agency sued Didion Milling Inc. in November 2020 alleging state inspectors discovered 30 violations at the company’s Cambria corn mill in 2019, including emissions, record-keeping and reporting violations. Didion spokesperson Scott Rippe didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the settlement.

The state Department of Justice asked the Legislature’s finance committee on Wednesday for permission to accept the settlement. Republicans passed a law in 2018 requiring the department to get the committee’s permission before settling any lawsuit as a way of diminishing Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul’s powers.

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Five Didion employees were killed in a grain dust explosion at the mill in May 2017. Last year, a federal grand jury charged the company with fraud and conspiracy in connection with the explosion, alleging the company failed to keep up with cleanings at the plant and falsified records to make it appear as if the cleanings were completed. The company responded to the charges by insisting the explosion was an accident.

The case is set to go to trial in October.