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Farmer, Chobani work to address acid whey concerns

July 25, 2013 | 0 comments

The owner of a southern Idaho farm where acid whey was being spread on the soil said the work will stop while the businesses try to accommodate neighbors' concerns.

The Times-News reports that Reed Gibby is under a contract with Chobani to spread acid whey - a yogurt byproduct from Chobani's Twin Falls plant - on his crop land as a soil amendment and as feed for livestock.

This spring more than 1,000 truckloads of the liquid from the plant were hauled to Gibby's farm near Hollister, but neighbors began complaining about the truck traffic and the smell of the whey.

The complaints reached Chobani official John Sneldon, who shut down the work until the issues could be addressed. The trucks were set to resume hauling acid whey to the farm several weeks ago, but nothing is moving yet.

"We are taking time to accommodate the neighbors," said Gibby, who operates the farming business under the company names Carne I Inc. and Evard LLC.

The trucks now have a new route to take to the farm that will take them away from neighbors, and there will be no nighttime hauling, he said. Additionally, an odor-reducing additive will be added to the whey before it is sprinkled on the soil.

"It is a very good system to mitigate the problem," Gibby said.

Some neighbors are skeptical, however.

Jim Herman has owned the local hot springs resort Nat-Soo-Pah for 13 years. He said he lost customers when Gibby was hauling whey to the farm last spring, and he doubts the odor can be eliminated.

"The smell is pretty rank," Herman said. "It smells like a dead animal."

Hollister Mayor Dixie Choate called a special town meeting last month to discuss residents' concerns about the whey operation.

Some residents fear Chobani's operation could impact the town's domestic water supply because the whey is being sprinkled on land near the town's old wells. The wells aren't being used now but could be used in the future.

Choate says she's updating the town's well-head protection plan to include the old wells.

She has asked the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to help with the process, and once that's completed she plans to ask the Twin Falls County Planning and Zoning Administration to restrict land uses that would potentially contaminate the groundwater.

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