In response to complaints about the number of water trucks traveling up and down Washington Street in Calistoga every day, for the sake of safety, and the need for a larger facility, Crystal Geyser has come up with a plan it hopes will fly with the city.
The project includes a new warehouse, parking lot, and new bottling system that would take 25 percent, or 1,600 trucks a year off the road each year, said Josh Butt, vice president of operations.
“That’s probably the number one complaint that we get, because the trucks are running all the time,” Butt said. “The trucks are not our property and the drivers are not our employees. But we have very strict policies that we enforce with the companies we hire.”
Butt cited a recent incident where a truck was speeding down Washington Street. “We called the carrier and said ‘do not let that person return to the site.’ We take that very seriously.”
Geyser has been in communication with the planning department, but has not officially submitted plans to the city for the project. The company did hold two community meetings to get input and provide an opportunity for residents to comment.
To achieve its goal, the company wants to move the current entrance and exit to the facility, by moving the water filtration to the rear of the property and replacing it with a new building and landscaping.
Currently, empty bottles are brought in by truck, and the filled water bottles also go out by truck, with very little room for storage. So the trucks have to constantly be moving product.
As a solution, the plant is planning to switch from trucking in full formed bottles to pre-form expandable bottles which take up a lot less room on the truck.
“That’s the key to reducing trucks,” said Butt. “You can fit tens of thousands of the pre-forms on a truck, versus now, with many hundreds on a truck when they’re fully blown. Making the bottles here will cut down on traffic on Washington Street.”
The water delivery trucks would still be coming in, at 12 or 16 a day, but “If we eliminate the (constant) need for the bottles to come in and if we have enough storage on-site to handle a couple of days’ production, then we can control the truck flow, scheduling them exactly when they come in and go out, at more opportune times,” Butt said.
The Calistoga facility — the 41-year old company also has locations in Mt. Shasta and Bakersfield — has been operating in close quarters for some time. The plant and administrative offices make up about three of the property’s seven or eight acres, and hasn’t seen many changes over the years, said Plant Manager Carmen Maib. Maib has been with the company for more than 35 years. There was an expansion in the 1990s, but the plant is pretty “packed” with no place for storage, she said, and warehouse space is a necessity.
“With the bottling facility and warehouse facility, it’s tight quarters, not a lot of space. Having more space would be great safety-wise,” she said.
The company is looking only to expand the facility, not expand production, Butt emphasized.
“That would not make sense to try and do that here. We can’t make more product here than what our current filler has (capacity for). We just don’t have the water. Yes, we’re building a big building, but that’s how much warehousing space takes.”
“I don’t think people realize just how small this facility is. It’s 18,000 square feet including offices,” she said.
The adjacent bike path is a popular spot with people running, walking and biking. The creation of a new parking lot will also reduce street parking, another safety measure.
“When trucks come in we want them to be able to see without any visual impairment on the road,” Butt said.
The company will also build a sound barrier in the back production area, mitigate any light pollution and plant more trees along the south side of the property.
“We want to overall lower any negative impacts that doing business here has. We want to make it more efficient,” Butt said.
The company is also forecasting the need for six additional employees when the warehouse opens.
Crystal Geyser water comes in dozens of flavors, including seasonal flavors that come and go. Flavors include green apple, peppermint, peach, pineapple, and mango. The new building will have a reception area and the company is thinking about putting in a water tasting room for water made on-site.
“There are a lot of flavors that are hard to find in stores. We would have all those flavors here,” Butt said. “We could play with experimental flavors, Calistoga-only water, just have fun with it.”