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Reporter's Notebook

September 29, 2012

SRBC admits Chobani still lacks water permit

More than a year after the Susquehanna River Basin Commission learned that the the Chobani yogurt factory was pumping water from the local aquifer for its production needs without a required withdrawal permit from the agency, the agency says that it has taken no formal action against the company. And testing of the aquifer has still not been conducted.

It was on Valentine’s Day that The Daily Star first drew public attention to this matter. Several homeowners from South Edmeston - just across the Unadilla River from the Chobani plant operated by Agro-Farma Inc. in Chenango County - told this reporter that their wells had either run dry or were supplying inadequate water. They said they suspected Chobani’s uptake of water was responsible. SRBC said at that time that Chobani had self-reported in August, 2011 that it had been taking water without the required permit.

At that time, SRBC officials told concerned Otsego County officials that they planned to oversee aquifer testing in the summer of 2012 to determine the cause of the water shortages.

As of Friday, according to an SRBC spokeswoman, that testing has still not taken place, although the agency is working with the company to resolve what she called a compliance matter.

In response to my battery of questions, here are the answers and explanations offered in recent days by the SRBC spokeswoman, Susan Obleski:

• “Based on information supplied by Chobani (from the company’s metered wells), the company’s groundwater withdrawal is approximately 800,000 gallons per day.”

• “Chobani is also discharging approximately 585,000 gallons per day on average of treated wastewater and cooling water.”

• “Chobani is not bringing in water from other sources.”

• “ Chobani has been cooperative in developing the aquifer test plan, which SRBC must approve once a few remaining matters are addressed. Completion of the aquifer test plan has been challenging and time consuming due to the way in which many residential wells are constructed (shallow, narrow-diameter drive points operated using jet pumps)

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