A preliminary review of data from tests examining the impact of Chobani’s withdrawal of groundwater has determined that “mechanical problems” with wells were the “root cause” of nearby homeowners having difficulty drawing water from the same aquifer, according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.
The data suggests there had only been a “minor influence” on wells from Chobani’s pumping of water, the commission told The Daily Star in response to the newspaper’s inquiries.
Some residents of South Edmeston in Otsego County — just east of the Chobani yogurt plant in nearby Columbus — had told The Daily Star in February 2012 that they suspected that the company’s use of massive amounts of water was responsible for their wells running dry. The residents noted they began experiencing problems with their wells after the company rapidly expanded and began taking water without the proper SRBC permit.
The commission approved a testing plan in which Chobani hired an engineering firm from Baldwinsville. The test was completed in December 2012, SRBC spokeswoman Susan Obleski said.
“The purpose of the Commission-approved aquifer test was to provide data to be able to evaluate the sustainability of Chobani’s groundwater withdrawals and assess the potential for adverse impacts to other users and/or the environment,” Obleski said in an emailed reply.
“A robust monitoring network was employed during the aquifer testing which consisted of more than 40 monitoring points at wells, streams and wetlands,” Obleski added.
She said Chobani distributed well inventory questionnaires to the owners of 78 parcels located within a half mile radius of Chobani’s own wells. Those questionnaires requested information about the types of private wells the residents were using, and asked if the residents would let their wells be monitored during the aquifer test.
Fifteen property owners responded to the well survey, and the water levels were monitored at a total of 17 private wells during the test, Obleski said.