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Mitch’s Fiery Words by Don Pearly Illustrations By Thomas Tomczyk

 

Or, how some good people of guanaja faired
honduras’ biggest
hurricane on record

The Bayman Bay Hotel on the Bay Island of Guanaja in Honduras, Central America was filled to capacity with bored and cranky SCUBA divers after an entire week of troubled waters. Hurricane Mitch had sent an advance warning that she was coming, and the ocean was too turbulent for sport diving. The guests played games and watched diving videos from years past.
I was the General Manager of Bayman Bay Club and had experienced several nasty storms on Guanaja but this approaching storm was sending an advanced warning that was more powerful than any weather we had ever experienced.
When Saturday morning came and their departure eminent, the spirits among the troubled guests rose a bit, and as they literally jumped aboard the dive boats waiting to take them to the airport, everyone was somehow sad to leave. The surge was so great that the dive masters had to pick up the older female guests and wait for the dive boat to rise up enough to pitch them aboard to other waiting dive staff. A miss here could be disastrous as I personally found out when I fell between the dock and the moving dive boat. In shock, but still in control of my senses, I forced myself to open my eyes and headed underwater for the relative safety of the pier area. I admit I was scared like I have never been scared before. A watery grave is just not my favorite way to go out, I would much prefer to overdose on fried chicken wings when my time comes.
The guests were given the ride of their lives up the North shore and through the cut in the island to the airport. There they were picked up by the very last Aerolinea Sosa flight to leave Guanaja for some time to come.
With the responsibility of entertaining the guests over, Bayman Bay staff set about arranging things for the impending storm. All of the mattresses from the casitas were gathered together and put into one concrete apartment under my manager's house for safekeeping. A shopping trip to Bonacca Town to gather all of the food stock they could gather at this late date was underway when word came that Mitch had made a turn to the North and everything looked better for Guanaja. What they did not know at that point was she did go north but then had second thoughts and stalled off of the Belize coast while she took her sweet time plotting her next move.
Late in the afternoon, two water taxis showed up bearing six new guests. They dumped them on the pier and headed back to the safety of the airport area. The wind was blowing, rain was coming down and the water was worse than ever. As they made their way up the hundred steps to the clubhouse, I met them and asked how in the heck they managed to come to the resort when airlines had shut down days prior because of the storms in the area. It seems they had been in Copan and came over using various local means and no one gave them a heads-up about anything. They had pre-paid for their Bayman stay and by goodness they were going to enjoy it no matter what. They insisted on their cabin keys and no matter how hard I tried to explain how rough it might get, they wanted their designated cabins and that was that.
Watching the surge pounding the piers, we decided to move the expensive dive gear and compressor equipment off of the main pier into the safety of the grand entrance building at the foot of the stairs. With that ugly task behind us we came back up the fifty-three feet to the clubhouse level and watched the ocean twisting and churning around our pier. With all concerned hands watching, the surge came up and under the planks and lifted the long poles right out of the sand leaving the structure intact, but floating on the water. An incredible sight only captured by the newsreel cameras.
Then they started separating and breaking up after being tossed about like corks. The last to go was the grand entrance that was recently blessed with the task of safeguarding the compressors. Everything was lost and our adventure had just begun.
As predicted, when the first roof blew off their cabin, the guests rushed back to the office for some help. We sequestered them in that concrete apartment we had previously loaded up with some forty-five mattresses. The room was wall-to-wall mattresses and no room for anything else. They were not happy campers but they were now indeed believers in the power of Mitch. They had not seen anything yet.
The two 35 foot dive boats along with the three 24 foot skiffs and one speedboat were taken to the cut and rammed at full speed into the mangroves. Once lodged there they were tied together and abandoned. Staff from the hotel made their way home to Savaghnna Bight, Bonacca Town and Mangrove Bight where the smart ones gathered their families and made their way back to the relative safety of Bayman Bay Club. Some 54 souls arrived and made themselves at home in another concrete room beneath the main dining room. They rigged up a makeshift kitchen and settled in eating like kings and preparing gourmet meals for the guests and management. We are proud to say, not one single meal was missed for the next week.
The staff had done all they could do and now they were on vacation. They chatted and played dominoes, ate and drank and dared Mitch to show its ugly face. The big generator was producing electricity and all was well at Bayman.
Mitch in the meantime was turning around deciding what to do next. Everyone had evacuated Ambergris Caye in Belize and was hiding with friends and family in the interior of the country. Mitch had made enough overtures to the islands of Belize. The majority of the inhabitants took the hint and went elsewhere.
After several false starts Mitch finally did a one eighty and headed south again, this time straight for Guanaja. Unheard of and unbelievable, but there she was bearing down on our little island. Winds clocked at 275 knots sustained were reported on the local radio station, more rain than ever imagined possible was packed in the black clouds as she steered a course right over Bayman Bay Club.
When she hit nothing was strong enough to handle her. Every roof either tore off completely or at least partially. A few cabins were de-roofed then left alone. Some cabins moved some fifty feet and settled in another location almost intact. Some of course were never ever seen again. In fact five entire cabins dissolved completely with maybe a toilet seat or a door found nearby.
The casita known lovingly as The Honeymoon Suite, lost her roof, but managed to keep hangers on the clothes racks in the closets and even left some envelopes sitting on the writing desk.
The Ex Governor of Arizona had just finished building an estate on the adjacent property and later, much later after Mitch left, you could see from the water where a tornado spun off of the hurricane and ripped a path up the beach, up the mountain and through the house only to continue a quarter of a mile up the mountain. It uncovered a fresh water spring that would later be dammed up and used for drinking and bathing.
Just the pillions and floor system, completely tiled were left of the Governor's Mansion.
Neither he nor his family had seen the finished product and I was the one who had to give him the news. As a side note, the family elected to rebuild and rebuild they did, bigger and better than the first one.
For five days and nights Mitch took its best shot at Bayman and the surrounding areas. Roatan, a mere 35 miles away was left undamaged. Punta Gorda side had some action but nothing worse than the usual northers bring each year. The ship called the Phantom decided to leave Roatan for the supposed safety of Guanaja in spite of Bill Evans, the owner of Cocoview Resort's advice. She was never seen again nor was her entire crew. Bits and pieces peppered Guanaja's shores for months. Life vests, cabin doors, spiral staircases, the bow carving, a big wooden sign all came to rest on Guanaja and can be viewed in Savaghnna bight as they are used for decorations on some of the local houses.
At Bayman, the trip from one safe house to the kitchen area required passing some eight cabins and my Manager and I did the deed each and every mealtime. On some trips I recall going one way counting eight standing cabins and then counting only seven on the return trip just a few short minutes later. Entire solar panels with hot water heaters full of water sailed some fifty feet and took out the front wall of my house. Doors, windows and furniture were flying about as if being carried by pterodactyls that eventually dropped them like bombs. Nowhere was safe from flying debris. Two by four lumbers was sent through walls and kayaks scooted around the pathways looking for a launch spot. The wind was so strong they later discovered it blew the bark off of the pine trees further up the mountain. The pines withstood the wind force, but their skin gave up the fight. The wind carried saltwater to our level and above and when it was over not one single green leaf could be found. If it managed to hang onto its tree, it turned brown from the salt.
On one food run I had to interrupt the food service and quell a girl fight raging in the employee bunker. It seems earlier in the season, a boat driver fell in love with one of the sub-managers and when he brought his wife and three kids to the resort to ride out the storm it all came to a head. The boatman had a decision to make and declared he was no longer with his wife but he was now with the other girl and bottles and flashlights started flying. I physically stepped in and moments later regretted that decision. With a few new bumps and the help of some brave dive masters, we broke it up long enough to separate the contestants. It was decided the lady manager and her new boat-driving lover would be required to spend the rest of the hurricane outside, under another building. Now there is a honeymoon to remember.
On the bunker housing the guests and management, the metal door that opened outward just for hurricane reasons, had a long knotted rope attached to the inside doorknob. It was tied there so that four grown men could hold it slightly open while I slipped the antenna lid of a laptop satellite phone out into the weather. When it reached the end of its wire I was able to communicate with head office in ft Lauderdale Florida and receive the latest weather reports. Before each broadcast I would write a script containing names and phone numbers and I would then ask Florida to make calls to loved ones for the trapped guests. We were only on the air for exactly one minute in the morning, and one minute in the night at specific times in order to conserve the satellite phone battery that I knew could not expect to be charged in the near future.
One evening brought the news that CNN wanted to do a live interview with the captives. It was coordinated and orchestrated and went off without a hitch. Now the world knew where Guanaja was, not just a name they read on "T" shirts now and again. I tried to be casual but they told me later that my voice was about three octaves higher than usual. I thought I was quite cool considering.
And then, one morning, after some five days of hell, the metal door was pushed open to find zero wind, a light misty rain and a lot of darkness. The inhabitants of the safe room climbed their way over fallen trees and bits of cabin to join the others near the main clubhouse. Some 65 people hugged and kissed and thanked God for their survival.
Soon someone noticed their ears were blocked and swallowing un-corked them. It was as if they were climbing into the sky in an airplane or diving down into the ocean. We were experiencing some radical pressure changes.
Several of us gathered on a balcony outside of the dining room. I looked out into the misty morning and saw a familiar post sticking out of the water. I knew it well as it marked a coral head just before the point. As I looked at it it vanished. Moments later it re-appeared only to disappear again. What was going on, I thought as I pointed out the magic post to someone standing near me. Their theory was that there was a black wall as high as the eye could see. It was moving back and forth ever so slightly, but as it was the tail end of Hurricane Mitch it would soon zoom out of sight leaving us alone. I knew better, it was not the tail end, it was the stomach lining, we were dead bang in the middle of Mitch. We were in the eye of the hurricane.
While we stood there digesting what this meant to us, with some twenty witnesses, a shocking thing happened. A United States Coast Guard four engine airplane painted white and orange pierced the eye of the hurricane and flew past the resort. As I mentioned we were at 53 foot above sea level and we were looking down into the cockpit and for one split second I saw a clipboard strapped to the co-pilot's right leg. I swear I did. This meant the plane was flying maybe 30 feet off of the choppy sea and doing some fancy maneuvering around the point.
One guest shouted to her husband that they have come for us and said they had best pack the bags. They had not come for anything, but measurements in the eye of the hurricane. Yes, Guanaja, Bayman Bay in particular would be playing host to the eye of Mitch for the next 39 hours.
With one eye on the weather and the great wall, we set about to light up the generator. One of the guests was fortunately a generator expert and with the help of our able staff they got it going in about three hours. Of course we had to follow the trail and put out little fires that sprung up all over the estate. There were bare wires, over protected circuits and eventually fires. But, with everything as wet as wet gets, no biggie. We had lights at Bayman Bay Club. Now that has to be some kind of a record. We had the comforts of modern electricity whilst huddled in the eye of a category five hurricane.
We were stylin', but no one felt secure knowing Mitch would have to leave sooner or later and we would be cast into the other side of the damaging storm, probably the worst side of the storm from everything we had heard.
Now we could charge up the satellite phone and call to our hearts content. As another sideline, our bill ran some one thousand eight hundred dollars just for that one week. The owners tried to get some kind of forgiveness but nay, pay or lose your phone.
Two local radio stations called us and CNN called again as well. They put us on stand-by, but never called back to put us on the air. I guess the excitement was gone from our situation although we certainly did not feel that way.
As I mentioned, Mitch hung around for 39 hours keeping right exactly over Guanaja. Each time we received an up-dated weather report we noticed the winds were calming down. 175, 140, 125. The winds finally dropped to a mere 115 M.P.H. when she finally moved off. This was only tropical storm magnitude, and absolutely nothing to worry about after going through what all of us had gone through earlier.
She left us a lot faster than she came to us and after only two days we started seeing a helicopter dragging a huge cargo net beneath it. We went out of our main roof and painted our name in great big letters. When the chopper kept passing us by we went out and painted a black and white version of an American flag only later to find out she was a British Hilo moving water and food to Mangrove and Savaghnna Bights. I guess the American flag gave them a bit of a laugh.
After another day we re-established our VHF radio links and sent for a Sosa airlift. The same water taxis that brought the guests came back for them and in horrible undulating water stood offshore waiting for us to ferry the people out past the danger zones.
Four of our guests were in their 80's and the two ladies had back and leg problems. Up jumped our trusty dive masters again and actually carried the ladies down the jagged cliffs, into the water and hoisted them into the taxis. Off they went to the airport with stories of the most different vacation ever dreamed of. As a final side note, the four guests returned to Bayman Bay Club in 2001 just to say hello and to thank us for our hospitality and good cooking. Their return visit was comped by head office
All in all it was an experience few people would want to live through more than one time, but would probably not miss that one time for anything.
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RoatanAirport Shuffle by Thomas Tomczyk
Three "security girls" perform luggage searches at the main waiting area for anyone with time to spare. Just like that, they fold their tables and leave. No one knows, or cares who had their hand luggage hand inspected. Why bother? The fee for the experience- $2.
A voice through a muffled speaker says something to the extent: "Attention passenger. The flight to Atrhta brrpt." "What did they say? Is Houston flight delayed?" asks a Texan in his sixties. There is no air conditioning and an overweight lady from Atlanta is about to faint. "I just want to get to the plane so at least we could get some air," she says.
The Roatan airport on Saturday serves as a safety valve for anyone thinking about moving to the island. If it wasn't for them, the island would probably swell and burst with visitors and migrants. There are other safety valves: RECO black-outs, rude and dangerous taxi drivers, a semi-existent road system, but the "Roatan farewell" leaves a lasting impression and sometimes clouds the images of colorful reefs and sandy beaches. This was my arrival departure experience on two of April's 2007 Saturdays. An airport security man comes with outstretched arms. Going between rows of hundreds of tourists sitting on the floor waiting for their flight, he carries two Sony Vaio laptops that were left behind at the security point. Anyone willing to raise their hand could end up with a Vaio.
Two hundred passengers line shoulder to shoulder waiting for 45 minutes to clear immigration and pay one of world's highest departure taxes. "Entrance to Honduras is free," reads a sign at the arrival hall and immigration area. There probably should be another sign: "But, if you want to leave Honduras, make sure you've got $34 cash." As I get within 40 people from the security the lights go out. "How romantic," I say. "I've been here four years ago and I almost forgot why I didn't come back here for so long," says a woman next to me. Hundreds of people cue at the only security scanner. An airport scanning machine can be bought on E-bay for $4,500 and could double the speed of the clearing. Instead every Saturday, the airport becomes a scene of hoodlum.
Taxi driver shouts: "$20 dollars to West End, $30 to West Bay. Cheep!" I don't think so. In New York City the four mile ride, similar to West End to Airport would cost you 4x5x$0.40 plus $2.10 initial fee= $22.10. At least Arrive to the airport 2 hours before departure, then spend the next hour and 45 minutes standing in cues and chaos before getting to your airplane. A couple argues over a $150 fee for overstaying their 90 day visa by four days. The only immigration official doesn't relent. The two hundred passengers stare in amazement.
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Helping Poor Help Themselves by Tamy Emma Pepin

Micro-credit companies offer lending programs to Roatanians with hopes of better lives

Adelante helps empower women through "unity, discipline, hard work and courage," a slogan which the members shout at the beginning of every assembly. Education about human rights, business and heath care are an important part of Adelante's program to create independence and self-sufficiency in its lending groups. A team of health and social educators travel to Roatan every month to train volunteers from the assembly. "The idea is to try to have a bit of a holistic approach of the problem through financial products but also through education," says Stone.
Adelante divided the island of Roatan into nine geographical areas, each represented by its own assembly. 320 women are members of Adelante on the island and Flower says more women are likely to join the program. "We are planning on forming three more assemblies on Roatan for 2007," he says. Foundation Adelante has 4,700 clients nationwide and offers loans at 3.5% monthly rate, equivalent to about 42% yearly interest. "It is very expensive to provide these women credit. If you want to sustain a program that allows providing for these people, you have to have interests like this," says Stone. A majority of Roatan borrowers are looking at their monthly lending costs and are often not aware of the actual yearly interest rate that their loan carries.
Other lending organizations such as ODEF and the Cooperativa Santos Guardalia also offer micro-loan services on Roatan. ODEF's starting loans vary between Lps. 3,000 and Lps. 15,000 with a monthly interest rate of 3 percent. According to Walter Suazo, Director of ODEF Roatan, the organization is the first private regulated financial company of its kind in Honduras. The program was implemented 20 years ago on the mainland, but has only been available on Roatan since 2005. No micro lending program is currently available on Utila and Guanaja.
Just like the rest of the world, Honduras has seen a boom in micro-credit lending companies since the success of Muhammed Yunus' Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. In acknowledgment of the power of micro-credit as a tool to fight poverty, Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Today, there are about 20 micro-credit companies in Honduras.
While UN has named 2005 as the year of micro credit, there are authorities that are skeptical about the universal effectiveness of micro credit programs. "The idea that if we make micro credit available to the masses is unproven," said Thomas Dichter, a UN development consultant with 30 year experience in the field in a BBC interview. "It is a good idea, but entrepreneurs are rare." Dichter believes that micro credit works best in countries with low corruption and ample growth opportunities.

Women from Adelante's La Punta assembly gather on the lawn of Leticia Mejia.
About a dozen women sat on a sidewalk, some in plastic chairs, some standing and one swinging in a hammock. Foundation Adelante, a micro-credit company working in Roatan since 2003, was having its bi-weekly assembly in Barrio La Punta. The meeting was not much different from a scene in rural Bangladesh, where Grameen bank, the original creator of micro-lending was founded. "After Hurricane Mitch, I went to Bangladesh where I learned from the Grameen model that the poor are worthy consumers," says Tony Stone, founder and chairman of Adelante.
Foundation Adelante works with the poorest of the poor, lending as little as Lps.300 to women with a goal to better themselves. To obtain a loan a woman must think of a business plan and choose four trust-worthy friends who will depend on each other during the loan-payment process. Part of Adelante's lending policy is the assumption that co-signing for loans will practically ensure that the women make their payments on time. "If you are in a group and you are all co-signers, you will make sure the other women pay their dues so you can all keep receiving your loans," says Renny Flower, Adelante's Roatan coordinator. Another part is the belief that women are more trusty borrowers than men. "We typically only accept one man per assembly. Women are known to be more responsible when it comes to paying back their loans," says Flower
Lucie Greenwood, a 37-year-old Oak Ridge woman living in Coxen Hole, joined the lending program almost two years ago. She started with a loan of only Lps. 2,000 to kick off her door-to-door clothing enterprise. Lucie has never missed a payment and often pays three or four payments at a time. "This way, if another woman in the group skips her payment, she can borrow from my money and our loan doesn't get frozen," says Lucie. Her good payment habits have allowed her to obtain Lps. 8,000 for her fourth loan in December 2006. In the next two years, Lucie hopes to turn her door-to-door business into a permanent store.
Taking Boats Again
The Fiscal vs. Eduardoño boat owners Saga Continues
The Anti-Drug official coordinating the recent seizures, who could not reveal his name, said that Atlantic Coast fiscal Joel Serrano was forced to resign his post two month ago also for releasing several Roatan seized boats. "This is exactly why he doesn't work there anymore," said the Anti-Drug the official. Another perspective on the contradictory ruling had fiscal Campos. "This is strictly a ladder of command issue," he said.
TGI, Diving with Sharks, Fantasy Island and at least three other boats were also seized in the latest raids and according to fiscal Campos, will be available for sale at auction in La Ceiba in May.
Subway Watersport decided cut their losses and salvage their two engines, hydraulics, bimini top, etc, and abandon their boat with the fiscal as they have originally bought it- an abandoned shell. Several of the boats confiscated by the Bay Islands fiscal office were given in "temporary possession" to Foundation Cayos Cochinos.
The Subway Watersport's Voyager is towed away by the fiscalia from Barefoot Cay
On April 26 another chapter begun in the confiscation of the Eduardoño boat saga. Three fiscal representatives and an officer from Anti-Drug squad came to Diving with Sharks, Subway Watersports, TGI and for the second time this year confiscated the dive shop's vessels.
The confiscations began in January when Isai Campos Rodriguez, director of Bay Islands fiscales, had ordered a seizure of 30 Eduardoño boats. The Subway Watersport's 33 footer panga was taken originally taken on January 29 and, under the authority of Atlantic Coast fiscal Joel Serrano, released back to Subway two weeks later. Complicating matters further, in a document dated March 23, Tegucigalpa Chief Fiscal Omar Cerna Garcia annulled the order given by Serrano.
We Are The Champions?

Roatan triumphs over the tiny island of Little Corn

In the afternoon game the Nicaraguans were able to somewhat control their demise and even scored a home run. Still the Islita team was overwhelmed by Roatan's powerful pitching rotation and succumbed to Roatan 7-4.
While Roatan fans danced and celebrated the victories, the Nicaraguan team picked up their gear in silence. "We will fly nine of our players from Managua," threatened Stanford Kingsbury, Islita's owner, jokingly. The Little Corn Island team, founded over 30 years ago, is one of six baseball teams on the Nicaraguan English speaking archipelago and did not finish last season's pennant.
According to Kingsburry, the team was promised matches against "neighborhood teams of Roatan," and was not ready for the "Roatan selection." Many Roatanians were under the impression that they were playing an entire Nicaraguan selection, or at least the Swan Island archipelago. In fact they played the only team of Little Corn Island- population 1,100. While Nicaraguan baseball is considered better that Honduran, the Islita players were no match for the best players of 73,000 populated island.
The next day, April 22, Islita players got pummeled again. They lost to the Roatan selection 9-4 and 11-4. Roatan players are expected to make a trip to Corn Islands in August.
On April 21, on the newly upgraded and renovated Sandy Bay baseball field became the site of Roatan's first in the long time victory. Too bad it was against an unprepared and overwhelmed Nicaraguan team from Little Corn Island, a 1,100 person island 800 miles South-East off Roatan. Still everyone had fun and the Sandy Bay field got a facelift.
The Roatan selection, composed of the best 24 players from four island teams, pummeled the Nicaraguans in the morning game. The several hundred fans cheered and screamed as the morning collision ended 16-3, with Roatan hitting three home runs by Mike Williams, Jed James and Walter James Jr. who scored a grand slam.
Where Goes the Money?
Bay Islanders ask who will benefit the most from the coming ZOLITUR status

The ZOLITUR law requires an archipelago wide census to be done before May 28. The ZOLITUR decided not hire a company to do the census, but will use local municipal resources to do the work due to end on May 15.
In September 2004 Bay Islands VOICE conducted a Bay Islands population estimate based power demand and estimated the archipelago population at 85,000. Over the last 30 months the energy demand in the Bay Islands has grown considerably and B.I.V. estimates there are 73,000 people on Roatan, and 94,000 on the Bay Islands. (see chart on opposite page)
While the law brings in elements of education, security and social development, almost all questions at the meeting focused on the issue of who will benefit financially from the ZOLITUR law. "The only people who won't benefit from this law will be the people who don't want to work," said Congressman Hynds.
An ID will be given to Bay Islanders, anyone who can prove that they have lived here continually for the last five years. Fire arms are allowed only at homes and in businesses. The people found carrying arms will be fined, their arms confiscated and they risk a one year jail term. ZOLITUR offices are operating in the French Harbour's Jared Hynds Community Center.

The free tourist zone will indirectly, but positively affect every one residing in the Bay Islands, was the message of the ZOLITUR board meeting with island business owners on April 27 at Coral Cay. The best off financially will be those who already have an established business here, any business that can be connected to tourism. "Gravel qualifies too. You don't think I would pass this law if I wouldn't benefit from this myself," explained Congressman Jerry Hynds jokingly. The 'tourism related business' will be able to import goods tax free and resell them locally to additional saving.
While the sales, tourism and personal taxes will be eliminated beginning May 28, the revenue is expected to be compensated through other means. Municipal taxes, 4% capitals gains taxes, land sale fees alongside a $6 international passenger tax, $1 domestic passengers and $2 on cruise ship tourists tax are expected to more then make up the revenue available for the development and security of the Bay Islands department.
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Treating Black Water by Thomas Tomczyk

Bay Islands begin to deal with one its biggest threats to its Reef and Environment

For homeowners who want to improve the efficiency of their existing standard septic tank, Pirana aerobic system is an option. Jerry Fife, a driven, gray-haired inventor of Pirana has put it on the market in 2000 and today Pirana is distributed to over a dozen counties. Fife says that anaerobic septic systems just don't work efficiently enough and the "failure [of this septic system] is imminent."
The 36" tall Pirana drum is designed to provide the optimum environment for facultative bacteria that are able to efficiently break down and clean the black water environment that surrounds them. The bacteria bag is placed inside a series of plastic membranes that allow for the water to circulate freely around them. An air pump, using around $5 of electricity a month, moves air from top to bottom 24 hours a day. The entire drum varies in cross section and is surrounded by an outer housing plastic shell.
Pirana is the only system available on the Bay Islands that can be placed in an existing septic tank. Its bacteria can go to work within hours and alleviate a problem caused by a badly designed or managed septic system. "Pirana is a fine solution for a legacy system," says Taylor.
In 2005 Pirana was introduced to Roatan and Blue Bahia Resort became the product's first client. Since then 38 clients have had Pirana systems installed, with the biggest one being Bananarama, with six septic tanks. To make the Pirana a more affordable solution, Drysdale is arranging for the purchase of Pirana to be done on credit thru LAFISE bank.
Another Aerobic Septic system available in the Bay Islands are Biodigesters, marketed and sold by Phillip Sampson, a English developer and environmental consultant who begun selling them in June 2006.
Biodigesters, invented by Mark Newbury are manufactured in Spain, assembled in England then reassembled and checked on site in Roatan. "Other systems might make the septic water clear and it doesn't smell, but that doesn't make the system good for the environment," says Sampson. Unlike in the standard septic, Biodigesters take in water from all house receptacles and pumps it into its chamber. A 110 volt creates air bubbles that slowly rise thru the two chamber GRP plastic tank.
One of the innovations used in the Biodigester is "volcanic stone" that sits at the exit of the air pipe and creates microscopic bubbles, which according to Sampson, are better for the growth of the septic tank bacteria.
One of realities and disadvantages of having an Aeration Septic System is that one has to be constantly making sure that the bacteria are doing OK. Its wellbeing is affected by too much Clorox flushed down the drain. "Bleach and detergents are worst for any sewage system," says Sampson. The bacteria culture, sitting idle for three-four weeks, can die, or go into hibernation mode. A pound of sugar can revive the dormant bacteria. Still, the reality is that most people that come to the Bay Islands are not used to being in any way involved in "managing their waste."
"People are finally spending more money on septic systems. They are finally trying to protect the environment," says Sampson, owner of Bay Islands Environmental Services. Taylor agrees: "The environmental enforcement of laws has made great strides in the last couple years," says Taylor about the Roatan Municipal Environmental department. "Overall, Honduras has pretty good environmental laws, but the big problem is compliance."
Aeration Septic Systems are not the only solution used in the Bay Islands. Three years ago Mango Creek in Port Royal decided to go with a series of composting toilet systems for its four water cabanas. Because of the steepness of the terrain and with the Lodge's cabanas being right on the water, the waste would have to be pumped up, then gravity flowed down. The Lodge decided to think outside the box and purchase four Sunmar composting toilets for $1,000 each. The composting toilets fit right in with the Mango Creek Lodge eco image. "There is no odour and our garden plants love it," says Ed Kattle, Mango Creek's general manager. Every two weeks lodge employees empty the unit's holding tank and spread its content in the garden area.
World bank is funding another black water solution on Roatan, this time in Flowers Bay. According to Dale Jackson, Roatan Mayor, around Lps. 24 million from International Development Bank's money will be spent for providing septic systems to Flowers Bay area. According to Mayor Jackson, no aerobic septic systems will be installed even though around 90% of all the dwellings in Flowers Bay fall into Zone-1, less than 30 meters from the beach and little room for leach fields.

In a 1999 study, PMAIB determined that the most damaging factor in the deteriorating of Roatan's reefs is fecal contamination from human waste. While the threats to the island's environment have changed since then, black water treatment remains both an environmental and a health concern for most home owners.
"Bottomless cesspools, under level septic fields and irresponsible drilling for well water is the biggest threat to Bay Islands," says Bob Kable, owner of Island Environmental Products company. Since 50% of the Bay Islands population lives in Zone 1, their dwelling sites shouldn't even have a leach field there. According to Kable, 90% of the septic systems in the Bay Islands have failed or are operating in violation of USA's (Environment Protection Agency) EPA codes. As governments in developed countries got tough on septic offenders, a series of inventors began marketing their product to Central America. The late 1990s saw an explosion of Aeration Sewage Treatment Systems that are just now beginning to arrive in the Bay Islands. These systems use digesting bacteria that turn waste into CO2 and H2O.
The understanding of the sewage treatment issue is neither easy nor appealing to most people. Unlike developed countries where sewage treatment is left to the authorities, on the Bay Islands most home owners have to become aware what happens to their waste once it is flushed down their toilet.
The most frequent cause of sewage system failure is either a septic tank that becomes over filled with solids, or a leach field that becomes "glazed" with ground water building up with a dark liquefied sewage floating to the surface causing a foul odor. That failure is also a health hazard and can pollute ground water. While Roatan Municipal requires septic tanks with new house construction "there are no requirements as for the efficiency of the septic systems," says Ian Drysdale, owner of Environmental Solutions, an environmental consultant business in West End.
PMAIB has attempted to alleviate the sewage problem in Roatan's biggest urban area. Since 2005, Coxen Hole's sewage treatment plant uses aeration pools where the sewage waste is dumped and then pushed by gravity into a series of evaporation pools. At the end of the process the diluted liquid is piped out into the sea where the strong West bound current takes it quickly out.
For areas where municipal black water system is not available, individual home owners have to rely on anaerobic and aerobic septic tanks for their homes. The oldest and largest aeration septic system on the Bay Islands is Delta Environmental. Bob Kable took over the representation of Delta in January 2005 and in 2006 alone sold 65 tanks on the Bay Islands and 50 on the mainland. "Delta systems have been the preferred choice among the builders, developers and home owner of several leading developments on Roatan and Utila: Lawson Rock, Keyhole Bay, Milton Point," says Kable.
Delta has units that can serve as few as four people (400 gallons a day) and as large as units capable of servicing 23 people. One of the savings that come from using the sewage treatment come from the cutting the expense of constructing a leach field. "The liquid from the tanks is so clean, it can be run directly into the ocean," says Kable. The Delta system is 10 times cleaner then USA's EPA standards that can and often is used for above ground irrigation and as gray water.
Dan Taylor, an environmental engineer and developer of Keyhole Bay who uses Delta, is also adamant about building was is recommended by a manufacturer "treatment train." Taylor says that many builders like to cut corners for financial reasons and never bother to install the four stage: Anaerobic tank- Aerobic tank- Chlorine treatment- polishing tank. While the Delta aerobic tank and installation costs $3,100, the entire four stage system for an individual home costs around $10,000. For Taylor this is a price to pay for a fully functional system.
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