Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Little Lobsters in the Water

I was asked if we have to worry, from a kosher standpoint, about these copepods (microscopic crustaceans) that are supposed to be in the drinking water.
I will let Rabbi Adler the head of the Hartford Kosher Vaad (Council) answer it.
He says it exactly as I would.
This is from a recent (Nov 27th) article in the Hartford Newspaper.
The article also gives a nice recap of the issue.
I will quote pieces of that article:

Can tap water be non-kosher?

Of all the topics Robert Moore has run across in his decades in the public water supply business, that one was probably the most unusual.

It surfaced in April as Moore and others on the Metropolitan District Commission were dealing with an unusual outbreak of copepods, a tiny crustacean common in water but usually trapped by MDC filtering systems. The creatures posed no health risk.

"In my 42 years in the business, I'd never considered that question," Moore, MDC chief administrative officer, said Monday, looking back at the copepod flare-up, which last happened here in the 1970s. "Then I read about it in New York City records when we were doing research on copepods. Copepods are shellfish. That's what makes them non-kosher."

During a copepod outbreak in New York City in 2004, some ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city considered the city drinking water no longer kosher, because copepods are crustaceans, prohibited from consumption under Judaic dietary law. They filtered tap water at home before using it and complained to New York City water system authorities.

But no one raised the kosher issue with MDC officials this spring, Moore said.

When news of the copepods in MDC water broke, the topic of water purity and Talmudic law was a subject of rabbinical discussion, Rabbi Yitzchok Adler of Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford said this week.

"When it made the news, everybody was talking about the drinking water, not just the Jewish population," Adler said.

The determination was that the copepods did not present a problem to the Jewish community, he said, because of their almost microscopic size and the "sincere best efforts" of the water district to improve filtration and correct the problem.

There will always be spiritual leadership who choose to err on the side of caution and take a stricter stand to "avoid a circumstance of doubt and compromise," Adler said.

"We are simply required to do what is reasonable in accordance with guidelines. We need not live a life encumbered by expectations that are unreasonable."