Chobani has agreed to pay a $130,000 negotiated settlement to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission after the agency determined the firm’s yogurt plant in Columbus withdrew aquifer water without the required permits, officials said Monday.
Chobani communications manager Lindsay Kos said the settlement represents “another step in the positive process of working closely with SRBC on handling the matter.”
The public first became aware of the SRBC investigation in February when The Daily Star reported that several residents of South Edmeston — just across the Unadilla River from the Chobani plant — indicated they were getting insufficient water from the wells connected to their homes. Those residents said they suspected that Chobani’s own water usage was having a significant impact on the aquifer supplying their wells.
At the time SRBC revealed that Chobani had self-reported in August 2011 that it had been taking water without the required permit from the agency. Last September, SRBC spokeswoman Susan Obleski said Chobani was using approximately 800,000 gallons a day of groundwater.
Obleski said Monday that water usage level has not appreciably changed, and since then Chobani has filed applications for the permit it needs to draw the groundwater it continues to use.
In response to questions, Obleski said, “Chobani is authorized to continue, but not to increase, its withdrawal and consumptive use of water until the time when SRBC acts on the applications, which are currently still pending.”
SRBC had indicated last winter that it was going to have Chobani undertake aquifer testing to determine whether its withdrawal of water was responsible for the water shortages being reported by some South Edmeston residents. Initial plans called for that testing to be performed last summer. However, the SRBC has only recently approved the aquifer test plan and the company has begun the testing, Obleski said.
Kos said in a statement: “Background testing continues and all the monitoring and control systems are working well. We will continue to work closely with SRBC after receiving final test results, and look forward to continuing our positive working relationship with them to ensure our compliance.”