Greek-style yogurt maker Fage USA has emerged as the largest customer of the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility, part of an economic sea change from the leather to the dairy industry, according to the facility’s 2009 annual report.
In its first full year of production, Fage paid $611,637 in sewer bills, more than the next three largest users combined.
Sewer plant manager George Bevington said the emergence of Fage as the major customer of the facility was one of the highlights of 2009.
“We haven’t had that type of customer since either a Karg Bros. or Milligan & Higgins was operating in town,” he said.
“Fage has been a solid customer for us. This is their first full year, the previous year they operated for two-thirds of the year. It seems like we’ve got a good relationship with them.”
In addition to its use of the regular sewer system, Fage USA also pumped 9.6 million gallons of whey, a by-product of yogurt production, directly to the sewer plant via a separate pipeline. Fage accounted for 44 percent of the $655,262 in revenues the plant received from trucked waste and direct pipeline services. Revenues for trucked and direct pipeline waste were the highest they’ve been since the plant starting offering those services.
According to the annual report, the total quantity of whey from the dairy sector increased 60 percent from 2008 resulting in $160,649 more revenue for facility operations. The increase from the dairy industry helped push revenue from all industrial users to the highest level in a decade.
“The dairy industry influence is kind of replacing the leather industry that has left the area. Leather is still a component but all of a sudden dairy is the largest component we have,” Bevington said.
The second highest user for the sewer plant in 2009 was cheese manufacturer Euphrates, which paid $170,717.
In 2009, Euphrates was also the subject of a criminal probe stemming from allegations the company had defrauded the sewer system by masking the amount of whey it was dumping down the sewer drain. Euphrates settled the criminal probe with a $985,000 payment for sewer charges and fines in order to avoid prosecution.
Bevington said some of the fraud included in the settlement agreement occurred in 2009, but not much. He said Euphrates’s second-place finish in the top ten industrial users was based on the amount it was billed for sewer service and was not adjusted to reflect any fraud for 2009. He said the company’s total bill in 2010 could go up or down, depending on the company’s sales activity.
The $985,000 paid by Euphrates has been put into the sewer plant’s rate stabilization fund.
Sewer board member Richard Handy said he expects the board will listen to the advice of the staff of the sewer plant before deciding how much of the money to use to lower sewer rates. The sewer board is scheduled to discuss 2010 rates at its April 14 meeting at the sewer plant at 7 p.m.
If the Euphrates controversy was one of the lowlights of 2009 for the sewer plant, the environmental performance of the plant was certainly a highlight. According to the annual report, the sewer plant removed the highest percentage of waste in its 38-year history, nearly 100 percent in several major categories.
“Environmentally we had a tremendous year last year, with producing the highest quality water probably in the history of the facility, entering the Cayadutta Creek,” Bevington said. “It was tremendous to have that kind of result. That was the result of a lot of years and a lot of projects and a lot of training and a lot of operators who made that happen.”
Categories: Schenectady County