PVWC Update on Issues Facing Clifton: An Interview with Executive Director Jim Mueller and Director Lendel Jones


The Clifton Times sat down with Jim Mueller (Executive Director of the Passaic Valley Water Commission (PVWC) and Lendel Jones (Director, Communications & Intergovernmental Affairs of PVWC) to talk about the changes that Cliftonites will be seeing in the next few months.

Communications Changes: Cliftonites were frustrated with the City of Clifton and PVWC’s handling of the water advisory after Hurricane Ida. Many residents felt that there was not sufficient coordination between the two groups, which resulted in a delay in residents finding out that they should not drink the water. On the local Clifton Facebook page, Clifton News and Community, residents expressed their frustrations with the lack of communication from the City Manager and the lack of coordination to get clean water to residents, especially those who were elderly or disabled and unable to make it to the distribution centers. Many said that Clifton should have used their “reverse 911” system to make calls to residents, to ensure that everyone received the needed information, even if they had not opted into the City of Clifton's Swift 911 Citizen Alert System.

1. Quarterly meetings with Town Leaders. PVWC will be holding quarterly working meetings with town leaders, police, and others to determine what the ongoing issues are that PVWC needs to manage proactively before they become crises. These meetings may also involve other utilities such as PSE&G to coordinate work on streets to minimize street closures and disruptions to residents.

2. Reverse 911. PVWC has been working on their own provider for reverse 911 services, so they will be able to reach all of their retail consumers in the event of an emergency. Mueller estimates that they are between 6 and 12 months away from being able to roll out this service.

3. Council Meetings. PVWC will be attending periodic Clifton City Council meetings in order to discuss the work they are doing in the communities they serve and will be available to answer questions from the public at those meetings. The Clifton Times wrote about Director Mueller’s March 9th meeting with the Clifton City Council here and will continue to cover issues raised at these meetings.

4. Other Media and Other Resources. Mueller said that one of the challenges that faces any service provider is that customers expect to be able to get same-day information. PVWC will be rising to that challenge by doing more interviews on local radio and being more active on social media (you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter but not TikTok). Their goal is to establish networks within the community to reach out to consumers before there is an emergency. In addition, they will be holding more press conferences and will be revamping their website to become more user-friendly. If local organizations would like PVWC to come to speak  to them, they can also request a speaker on the PVWC website.

Hydrant Flushing and Valve Testing. Targeted quarterly flushing of the Clifton hydrant began on March 16, 2023 and will continue, weather permitting until March 27, 2023. Flushing will take place between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm on weekdays. The hydrants are flushed to remove sediment and check water flow, to ensure adequate water pressure. During the flushing process, customers may experience temporary discoloration of their tap water and reduced water pressure. This discoloration is caused by sediment and minerals that have accumulated in the water mains over time. PVWC advises residents to refrain from doing laundry during the flushing period and to wait until the water runs clear before drinking or cooking with it. For the schedule of flushing, please check here.

Flushing Pipes and Water Discoloration. Mueller also informed The Clifton Times that another cause of the water discoloration in Clifton is that most of the pipes in Clifton are made of cast iron and were installed pre-WWII. As cast iron ages, it is prone to tuberculation, the development or formation of small mounds of corrosion products (rust) on the inside of the iron pipe. This rust can reduce water flow and discolor it. Most of our pipes are pre-WWII when Clifton was starting to build out. Because the city was built in sections, the pipes are not laid out on a grid, but rather in a modular way that results in some dead-end loops that do not connect to the rest of the city’s infrastructure. The best way to keep the water clean in those loops is with regular flushing, as water doesn’t circulate as freely as it does in other areas. There are 7 to 8 areas with known issues and PVWC has been reaching out to customers there. Mueller was happy to add that customers are reporting that their water has remained clear since the flushing began in Clifton in September. Systematic flushing of the pipes will return to Clifton sometime over the summer.

If you do encounter discolored water follow­ing hydrant flushing or pipe flushing, the PVWC advises customers not to run the hot water or do any laundry as staining may occur. Instead, customers should run cold water until the dirty water clears out of the pipes. If customers find stains on laundered clothing, PVWC advises customers to not put the clothes in the dryer as this will set the stains. Instead, they advise that rewashing the clothes usually will remove any stains. If this procedure does not solve the problem, you can contact the PVWC Customer Service Department at 973-340-4300 for help.

Inspection and Replacement of Lead-Lined Service Lines. When water leaves PVWC’s water treatment plant, it is clean and lead-free. However lead can get into drinking water from the service line between the street and your home if that service line is either lined with lead or is soldered with lead. If water sits in that service line without being used for several hours, the lead may dissolve into the water. PVWC will be removing 6,500 lead and galvanized steel service lines (which may contain lead) in Clifton, Paterson, Passaic, and Prospect Park and replacing them with copper pipes. The program started in the fall of 2022 and is expected to take three years to complete. The cost of replacing a service line normally ranges between $5,000 and $10,000 but under PVWC’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program, lead service lines will be replaced at no cost to the homeowner. The program is expected to cost $36 million and is paid for in large part (80%) by the State of New Jersey. For more information please click here.

At the City Council meeting, Mueller told the Council that it is extremely important that all residents cooperate with PVWC to have their pipes inspected if they have been flagged as needing attention and, if needed, replaced with new copper pipes. To date, only 8% of affected Clifton homes have had this work completed. 68% of all attempts have ended in refused access to inspectors.

Mueller told the Clifton Times that Clifton residents should know that PVWC inspectors will always carry a PVWC identification badge and will never ask for money. If an inspector comes to your home, you can call PVWC at 973 340 4300 and they will confirm whether their inspectors are active in your area.

PVWC has also made a virtual inspection tool available to support Clifton residents. To access this, click on the interactive map and zoom in on your address. If your property is marked with a red or a gray dot, clicking on the dot will bring up the Service Line Photo Upload Tool on the left side. This tool is only visible for properties whose service lines are of unknown material.

The Clifton Times urges all its readers to comply with the inspections because exposure to lead from drinking water and other sources can cause serious health problems, including damage to the brain, resulting in high blood pressure, confusion, headaches, mood disorders, and other symptoms. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. If you are concerned that your infants and children may have been exposed to lead, please contact your pediatrician who can check lead levels with a blood test. A child with lead poisoning may not have visible signs or symptoms.

Customer Service Center and Preventing Delinquent Accounts. Maria Malfa, the Supervisor of Customer Service at PVWC, is working on a program that will create a dedicated service space for customers to come into PVWC to help work out no-interest payment plans or resolve other issues. PVWC knows that access to water is very important, and will work with customers to prevent delinquent accounts from being shut off.

If you need financial assistance, The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) offers programs for low-income households. PVWC also offers no-interest payment plans. Check here for payment options and a link to apply for assistance. Mueller reported that when PVWC resumed shutting off water, after the State of NJ moratorium expired, delinquencies went down by 1.5 million. He reiterated that this is a last resort and that PVWC is committed to working with customers to prevent this. Here is the PVWC press release reminding customers who are eligible to participate in the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), to submit applications.

Reservoir Updates. The Clifton Times had written a PVWC Reservoir Construction Update last month, and Director Mueller gave us updates on the construction.

The Stanley M. Levine Reservoir designs are now done, and they will be bid out in spring with an expectation that the construction contracts will be awarded in late spring to early summer, with construction to begin in late summer. The international supply chain disruptions and the difficulties in obtaining materials are a consideration on the timeline for construction. Mueller stated that he does not believe that the construction will have a major impact on Cliftonites but there will be updated information on the website, and PVWC intends to have community meetings beginning in June, where Cliftonites can ask questions. In addition, Jones informed us that PVWC is reaching out to local groups to ensure that they can reach as many people as possible.

The New Street Reservoir is still in the permitting phase. Once all of the necessary permits have been received, the Commission can begin seeking construction bids. The construction timeline for New Street is tied to that of the Stanley M. Levine Reservoir. Once construction starts on Levine, PVWC has about 36 months to “substantially complete construction of the New Street Reservoir portion of the project.” More information on covering the open drinking water reservoirs can be found here.

Diversity: As last month was Black History Month, and this month is Women’s History Month, the Clifton Times invited Mueller and Jones to comment on the importance of diversity. Mueller said that diversity is one of the fundamental core values of PVWC because he believes that everything begins in equity and inclusion, which accelerates creativity, and allows better communications with customers and other stakeholders. He spoke of hiring and promoting more people that reflect the diversity of the customer base.  Director Lendel Jones is the first Black woman hired as a director on the PVWC. With Jones’ appointment, all key positions in the commission are now filled. 

The Clifton Times thanks Executive Director Mueller and Director Jones for taking the time to speak with us and thanks PVWC Commissioner Joseph Kolodziej for his help in setting up this interview. The Clifton Times will continue to report on the issues covered in this article, so please subscribe to a free account, so as not to miss any updates on PVWC’s plans for work over the summer.

Jim Mueller joined PVWC as Executive Director on February 22, 2022, and has been instrumental in revamping the utility company to address some of the challenges facing PVWC. He joins PVWC after 29 years of experience with the NYCDEP.
Director Lendel Jones joined PVWC on February 22, 2023, as Director of Communications and Intergovernmental Coordination. She has 30 years of experience in media relations, communications, crisis communications, and government affairs.
PVWC: Passaic Valley Water Commission is New Jersey’s largest public drinking water provider, serving over 800,000 consumers, including 22 wholesale customers, in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties.
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