Water takes care of us. Whether it’s by consuming the doctor-recommended eight glasses of water a day and staying properly hydrated, or by just allowing us to have an beautiful environment in which we can surf, swim, sail on, fish from, or just relax and look out over. Water, in many ways, has become the raddest and most providing parental unit the world has ever known—a humble caretaker for all whose days, years and lives are spent in, on and around it. So why is it so easy to sometimes overlook the health of our relationship with earth’s most well liked gift-bearer?
We sat down with enthusiast of all things aquatic and good, Mikey DeTemple, who’s working with Surfrider Foundation this summer to not only creatively shed light on a lesser-known water-related issue through artful storytelling, but also literally implement change via ocean-friendly gardens. By bringing awareness to the matter, and installing these unique natural filters, the initiative looks to curb harmful runoff that is quietly traveling from the land on which we live into the bodies of water in which we love.
MK: You always seem to have a handful of creative projects in the works—what’s up with this initiative with Surfrider Foundation that we keep hearing about?
MD: I’ve been lucky to work on some fantastic projects over the last year or so! This Surfrider project is something really close to my heart. It focuses on the water quality issues that eastern Long Island faces and really translates to any area that has ponds, bays and oceans. The piece really focuses on creating awareness around the problem and how to help fix it on large scale level like planting ocean-friendly gardens to simple solutions like changing over to natural fertilizers.
MK: And did they approach you, did you approach them? How did this thing first get put into motion?
MD: The Surfrider NY chapter approached me after they saw the water series I did this past year with Huck Magazine. I know quite a bit about the subject from sailing in Fort Pond and South Lake with the toxic levels of nitrogen and green algae blooms. It seemed like a pretty natural fit and we were both really excited to work together on this project.
MK: Can you talk to us a bit about the creative side of the initiative? You guys are filming a non-documentary short film regarding the project, right? Maybe a familiar face from Ditch is doing the voiceover?
MD: Yea, we’re trying to tell a bit of a story through different characters that are on the East End. They all come from different walks of life, sharing a passion for the water. We’ve got John Slattery (re: Roger Sterling) doing the v/o for the project and that’s really fun—he spends a ton of time in the water out here and genuinely cares about its state. The real thing were pushing in the film is Surfrider’s initiative in building Ocean Friendly Gardens. These consist of natural vegetation, which runoff can filter through, and in a way clean the water by removing some toxins before they reach the ocean or ponds.
MK: So, you mentioned that even common yet seemingly unsuspecting activities—like cleaning/scrubbing boats after a day at sea—can produce damaging runoff that could end up in places like clam beds out in Lake Montauk. Are there a lot of everyday motions like this that are potentially harmful and are easy to overlook, maybe specific to the East End??
MD: I think you get so many people that don’t have the intentions to cause harm, but are really damaging things. Products like teak cleaners, cleaning solutions that remove the tannins from the waterline of boats, those harsh scrubs—they are literally acid. All those big beautiful yachts docked in the marinas…I don’t think these guys are doing this intentionally. They just don’t know, and what we need to do is create awareness about this stuff and make it stop. What were doing really translates to a lot of places, and if we can get it out there how bad this shit is, I think many people will stop.
It’s so heartbreaking to see what’s happening to our beaches in Montauk. This pipe has been placed at the end of the dune with direct unfiltered toxic runoff into the ocean- how is that even legal?! After this mornings high tide a 15 foot portion of that pipe has broken off and is now floating in the sea. #armycorpsofengineers #montauk
A photo posted by Mikey DeTemple (@mikeydetemple) on
MK: Is it fair to say that there are some things about the land out here (its topography, healthy appreciation for landscaping) that make it more susceptible to harmful runoff ending up in the Atlantic + local waters?
MD: I mean, a lot of it really comes down to the awareness. People don’t realize how bad fertilizer is for the environment. They also don’t realize how cheap it is to switch over to organic matter. There’s no one to tell everyone. But on the other side of that, our infrastructure is archaic. We’re using septic systems that are literally designed to leech into the ground. We don’t have a waste water plant nearby. The closest is Sag Harbor. These kinds of things on the large scale take so much time to change—but if we all take small steps we can actually make a difference.
MK: If there’s one point you want to hit home, be it a preventive measure people can take, a fact that might make people more conscious of product use in property upkeep, something of that nature…what would it be?
MD: This is something I learned through my research and learning about the subject, but anyone can benefit from these ocean friendly gardens. Just because you live in the middle of town, or near the golf course, doesn’t mean what you do on your property doesn’t effect the ocean. It all ends up in the ocean—it all runs down hill. If you have one of these gardens at the lowest point in your property, the water is going to filter though it. If everyone did this, we would have much cleaner runoff landing in our ponds, bays and oceans.
MK: I’m a reader that’s casually intrigued, wants to learn more, and possibly get involved with the cause. What’s the next step and how can I stay in the loop?