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Feds propose $1.8 million fine in Wisconsin plant explosion

The Didion Milling Plant in Cambria, June 2, 2017. (WLUK)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Federal labor officials say a Wisconsin milling company should pay $1.8 million in fines for failing to prevent a fatal plant explosion earlier this year.

The Didion Milling Co. plant in Cambria exploded on May 31. Five workers were killed.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a news release Friday saying that an accumulation of highly combustible grain dust likely caused the explosion. OSHA officials said the explosion was preventable and proposed $1.84 million in fines.

The company has 15 days to comply with the fine, request a conference with OSHA officials or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Didion's marketing and communications manger released the following statement:

"The Didion team continues to mourn the loss of our team members who died or were injured that tragic day in May – we will never forget what happened. Our thoughts remain first and foremost with the families of those affected, our employees and the community.

Didion does not agree with the severity of the penalties levied against our family-owned business or the conclusions released by OSHA today. We are working with our legal counsel to determine how to address the findings from this federal agency. Regardless of how we address OSHA’s decision, it is our intent to rebuild our corn milling facility in Cambria. As a family-owned company that has operated in the community for more than 45 years, we recognize how important our mill is for creating new jobs and adding economic value to the area, as well as providing an important source of revenue for area farmers, and offering our customers high-quality products.

We pledge to our team members, the farmers and customers we serve, our community partners, the Village of Cambria and the people of Wisconsin, that we will build a state-of-the-art, best in class facility. The new mill will utilize the latest technology and industry best practices, creating one of the most efficient, effective and safe operational systems available.

We would like to once again thank our team members for their resolve and strength throughout this difficult process. We also would like to extend our gratitude to all of the First Responders who came from miles around to help us, and the Village of Cambria who opened their doors to support us.

Didion is continuing to work with industry experts and other agencies to determine the cause of the incident."

They added they plan to build a new plant with state-of-the-art safety systems.

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