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Farmers take on yogurt byproduct, residents concerned

By ANNA MEILER

DANUBE, N.Y. (WKTV) - Greek yogurt has exploded into a $2 billion a year industry, but now they're trying to figure out what to do with millions of gallons of a byproduct called acid whey.

The D.E.C. says it can be toxic if released into streams because it robs oxygen from the water, killing aquatic life.

The industry is relying on one solution, paying farmers to take it off their hands.

"They approached us and asked us if we wanted to take it for feed, spread it on our ground. We worked with our KFO planner, got permits through D.E.C. to take it on our farm," said Chris Fredericks, owner of Insight Dairy, LLC.

"Our 500 cows consume three tractor-trailer loads a week," he said. "It's saving us energy for cows, it saves us money in our feed program and everything comes down to efficiency and it also saves me money on buying fertilizer."

But some residents say they're dealing with by-products too; noisy trucks passing by their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night, as well as the smell.

"Go to the bathroom in a toilet and leave it for a week," said John. "Some days it smells so bad I close up the house and I keep the air filter on," said John Gronosky, who lives near the Insight Dairy farm.

Neighbors are also concerned about run-off into their creeks and wells, but Chris says he operates under D.E.C. regulations, spreading a specific number of gallons of whey per acre.

"Farmers should do a good job managing their facilities, but residents should not be concerned if people are doing it properly, absolutely not," said Fredericks.

He said he's also taking extra precautions to minimize the possibility of runoff.

"The thing we have done is we built a large lagoon so when there is bad weather, unless the unforeseens come, we don't have to spread it all in bad weather. We spread for the first time since May," said Fredericks.

The D.E.C. said they'll investigate any concerns in regards to stream contamination.

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