HUNTINGTON - Tom Laishley says getting into the bottled water industry is tough, but he is taking a different approach by putting his company's spring water into recyclable aluminum cans.
"We are one of just a few full-time canning facilities in the United States that does this," Laishley said. "Plastic water bottles are creating all kinds of environmental issues and concerns, and we want to change that at Little Switzerland Water."
Laishley is president of Little Switzerland Water, which is located at the mouth of W.Va. 10 and Hughes Branch Road. The company is a division of Laishley Family Trust and started July 8, 2016. It is a service disabled veteran-owned small business. Laishley is also a cost accountant with over 40 years of government contracting experience.
"We get our spring water from Sweet Springs Valley Water Co. in Monroe County, West Virginia," Laishley said. "Their spring water comes from limestone caves deep beneath Peters Mountain. People have traveled to these springs for hundreds of years to enjoy the water's therapeutic effects and its great taste."
Laishley said in 2010, Sweet Springs Valley's water was recognized at the International Water Tasting competition for being the only company to win for four years in a row.
"Their award-winning water is the best-tasting water and is of the highest quality," he said.
Laishley says part of the attraction of spring water is that it is often water that has moved to the surface from some type of underground water source. As such, the water is considered to be free of contaminants as well as unspoiled by the use of modern filtration techniques.
"The water is filtered and still has a naturally refreshing taste that cannot be replicated by other types of water," he said.
Little Switzerland Water uses a 1,000-gallon water hauler to bring the spring water to its facility in Huntington.
"We can get approximately 10,000 aluminum cans of 12 fluid ounces of water from that," Laishley said.
Laishley's wife, Jerie, who is also a registered nurse, handles quality control.
"Spring water's reputation for purity and outstanding taste has made it a popular choice for consumers," Jerie Laishley said. "Our quality control processes ensure the highest quality of spring water. We have received nothing but positive feedback from our customers."
The business has from four to six employees, depending on production schedules.
"We still consider this business in the startup phase," Tom Laishley said. "We continue to establish our market and plan to expand from there. Currently our water is sold to the Veterans Administration, hospitals, nursing homes and other extended care facilities."
Little Switzerland also makes a long-term shelf life emergency drinking water that meets all federal requirements for 50-year drinking water.
Tom Laishley says he believes everyone should have emergency water as part of emergency preparations.
"Store-bought bottled water has an expiration date and non-store-bought water should be replaced every six months, but our emergency water eliminates the need to rotate your expired water," he said. "When you purchase your water from us, you will be saving money over the long term and also have peace of mind knowing your emergency water needs are met for 50 years."
He said the water is processed and filtered at the Huntington facility to remove chemicals and particles using multistage filtering, reverse osmosis, ozone disinfection, quantum disinfection and high-pressure liquid nitrogen dozing, resulting in pure water with total dissolved solvents less than one part per million.
"This is ultra-pure water that is bacteria free, stays fresh even in extreme conditions and is easy and convenient for long-term storage," he said.
Little Switzerland also has its long-term-shelf-life water in aluminum cans.
"Again, we want to be environmentally friendly by using recyclable materials and not plastic," he said. "We strive to make our products as environmentally friendly as possible. Our cans are made from at least 70 percent recycled aluminum. Our spring water is packaged with handles made from 100 percent recycled plastic. Our total product can be recycled."
Tom Laishley says too often he hears about plastic bottles of water sent into disaster zones only to create another disaster made of plastic.
"Working with FEMA and city, county, state and corporations in times of disaster, Little Switzerland can provide potable water by tankard and aluminum cans to even the most remote places," he said.
At this year's International Festival of the Waters in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, on Feb. 22-23, Tom Laishley says he will enter both his spring water and emergency drinking water in aluminum cans into the contest.
"More than 100 waters from across the county and around the globe participate in this event, which is the largest water tasting competition in the world," he said. "We are very excited to be a part of it this year."
For more information about Little Switzerland Water, visit online at www.littleswitzerlandwater.org.