Caribbean Installer Finds the Key to Onsite Septic Success

Working on a tropical island might seem ideal. Think again. Learn how Dan Taylor overcomes the challenges of onsite work on a hard-to-reach isle.
Caribbean Installer Finds the Key to Onsite Septic Success
After a life spent on civil engineering projects in Africa and the Middle East, Dan Taylor has become the wastewater expert on the tropical island of Roatan, Honduras, in the Caribbean Sea. (Photo by David Steinkraus)

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In your mind, working on a tropical island may seem ideal. It’s always warm, and it’s sunny most of the time. But in order to work in a place like this, supplies and equipment must reach that island somehow. That’s one of the big challenges Dan Taylor faces in operating Acme Environmental Solutions on the Caribbean island of Roatan. 

Shipping means either a boat or a plane, and of course the stuff onsite installers use is either heavy or has a great deal of interior volume, so if you’re not careful a lot of your money goes to moving air around the globe. 

Taylor has some workarounds. First, he uses septic tanks from Infiltrator Systems Inc. because they separate and nest to stack efficiently in shipping containers. When he’s ordering a container of something, he buys other supplies – pipe, fittings, pumps, parts, anything to fill the voids. 

“You really have to plan ahead and keep a large inventory of specialty items,” Taylor says. “It takes time to ship from manufacturer to the port and then weeks to wait on the next ship. When you add transit time and the bureaucracy of importing and customs, logistics management is real important.” 

Roatan has no island delivery service. It’s up to Taylor’s people to bring items from the dock to the company’s warehouses. That’s another point: If something isn’t in the warehouse, you can’t send a guy in a truck down to the hardware store because there isn’t one (at least not a large one). With the logistics challenges, keeping complex projects on schedule can be trying. 

Those Infiltrator tanks have a dual purpose. Not only are they efficient to ship, they’re easy to move on land. Six men can muscle one into a hole. There are no heavy cranes available. A big crane would not fit on the island’s two-lane paved main road, nor could it negotiate some of the steep roads and rough ground where Acme works. 

Some jobs require more transport, sometimes over the water again. Roatan is surrounded by smaller islands called keys just a few hundred feet offshore, and Acme has to ship supplies for those jobs by small boat. To service a sewer system on a key, a vacuum truck has to be barged over. Those jobs make Taylor more than a little nervous. 

With cement and river sand shipped in bulk, concrete is the material of choice for construction. Homes, condos, stores and septic tanks are built of locally cast concrete blocks. 

Want to learn more? Check out a full profile on Acme Environmental.


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