GAH! These Bugs Are in New York City's Supposedly-Great Water

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One of New York City's less-likely bragging points is that our tap water is supposedly both delicious and clean. The "deliciousness" of said water -- as "delicious" as water can be -- is easy to attest to. The cleanliness?

Not so much. Because maybe it's THESE BUGS IN YOUR WATER that make it so "delicious". BAGHAGH! Someone -- I'm not sure who -- uploaded the following images to Imgur [Update: They came from Reddit via Joel Johnson at Gizmodo], which are microscope-magnified science pictures of DRINKING WATER (MAYBE BLOODSUCKING) BUGS of New York City's famous drinking water:

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Click to Enlarge OH JESUS WHAT IS THAT THING?

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Click to Enlarge THE BUGS THAT ARE IN YOUR WATER EATING YOU ALIVE FROM THE INSIDES!

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Click to Enlarge WHAT OBVIOUSLY IS NOT EVIAN BECAUSE THERE ARE BUGS IN IT!

So the bloodsucker thing is unconfirmed at press time -- the bugs could not be reached for comment -- but apparently, these are "copepods." Wikipedia, don't fail us now:

  • "Copepods (pronounced /ˈkoʊpɪpɒd/) are a group of small crustaceans found in the sea and nearly every freshwater habitat." Okay, not so bad.
  • "Planktonic copepods are important to global ecology and the carbon cycle." Well, that doesn't sound too bad either.
  • "Copepods are sometimes found in the public mains water supply, especially systems where the water is not filtered, such as New York City and Boston, Massachusetts. This is not usually a problem in treated water supplies. In some tropical countries, such as Peru and Bangladesh, a correlation has been found between copepods and cholera in untreated water, because the cholera bacteria attach to the surfaces of planktonic animals. The larvae of the guinea worm must develop within a copepod's digestive tract before being transmitted to humans. The risk of infection with these diseases can be reduced by filtering out the copepods (and other matter), for example with a cloth filter." WTF! THESE THINGS ARE GOING TO EAT US AND GIVE US CHOLERA?!??!?

Okay, so obviously, New York City isn't Peru or Bangladesh. But let's say these things do exist in New York City and are trying to kill us. Is there any benefit to them?

Copepods have been used successfully in Vietnam to control disease-bearing mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti that transmit dengue fever and other human parasitic diseases.

Oh. Well, that's nice. Then again, it doesn't help that these bugs are JEW HATING ANTI-SEMITES!

The matter of copepods in the water supply, however, has raised a problem for Jewish people who observe Kashrut in that copepods, being crustaceans, are not kosher, and are not small enough to be ignored as non-food microscopic organisms (since some specimens can be seen with the naked eye). The discovery of copepods in the New York water supply in the summer of 2004 in particular caused significant debate in rabbinical circles and caused many observant Jews to buy filters for their water.

Naturally, the New York Times was all over this: "There's Something in the Water, and It May Not Be Strictly Kosher." Their take on the matter is slightly less paranoid (read: mature) than my own, but no matter: When someone notes that there's "something in the water" that makes New Yorkers as canktankerous/insane/bloodsucking/street-smart as we are, you may now tell them: Fucking Bugs. We got bugs in our water, yo.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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