Water Industry News

NYC DEP recommends home filters to Orthodox Jews
...is this Kosher?

June 1, 2004

NEW YORK -- A glassful of cold New York City tap water not kosher?

It may be true -- and just in case, restaurants and bakeries operated under Orthodox Jewish law were advised Tuesday to use filters that can ensure water purity.

The problem: tiny harmless creatures called copepods. The little organisms are crustaceans and therefore not considered kosher.

As stores in heavily orthodox Brooklyn reported a run on water filters and rabbis considered whether additional measures were necessary, the Central Rabbinical Council issued its edict for businesses.

"We have given out a ruling that they should filter their water," said the council's Rabbi Yitzchok Glick. "We are still in the middle of deliberations about exactly the issues and the Jewish law."

Under Jewish law, the eating of crustaceans -- aquatic animals with skeletons outside their bodies, including shrimp, crabs and lobsters -- is barred.

Rabbi Abraham Zimmerman, of the Orthodox Satmar sect, said the recent discovery of the copepods was a small hardship, but he called on the city to help in making its water kosher.

"We hope the city will do something to purify and filter the water to accommodate a few hundred thousand Orthodox, observant Jews," Zimmerman said.

But the Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the reservoirs, said that the copepods are impossible to do away with and that they deliver health benefits to the reservoir.

"When it comes to delivery, if there is a spike and you are not comfortable with what you see in your water, all we can recommend is a commercial filter, which will effectively filter them out," DEP spokesman Charles Sturcken said.

Another Brooklyn rabbi, of the Lubavitcher group, said many religious leaders were advising their Orthodox followers to buy water filters if they can.

For those who can't afford filters, the water can be run through a double cloth to remove the copepods, Zimmerman said.

The problem became known only two weeks ago in another dispute over kosher product.

An Israeli company was accused by some customers of selling vegetables contaminated with insects, a violation of kosher laws. The company insisted the bugs were introduced when the vegetables were washed in New York.

Several Orthodox Jews then put the city's tap water under a microscope, turning up the millimeter-long creatures. The ensuing flap was particularly surprising, given New York's reputation for great-tasting water.

A recent Zagat survey found that seven out of 10 New York diners preferred tap to bottled water.

City officials were adamant that the creatures posed no threat to anyone's physical health, although the mental well-being of the Orthodox community was another matter.

"Pertaining to households, if they have to filter the water, we don't have an exact ruling at this point," said Glick.

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press