West Milford-Max Rueda, president of the Reflections Lakes Garden Apartments Tenants Association, is reaching out to West Milford officials for help with a water problem at his 20-unit complex. Water samples in hand, Rueda and his wife, Mary, appeared before council members at their June 7 meeting. The couple and several other residents of the complex also attended the meeting. Rueda told council members that deplorable water conditions have been going on for several years. He stated several tenants have notified the West Milford Health Department and the landlord. "To date," he said, "there has been little action to correct the problem." He added: "The health department tells everyone who has complained that, you are the only one to complain, nobody else has complained about it.' And nothing is done." "This has been going on for years and is getting worse. We have new members who have moved in over the last few months and were never told about the problem. They do not find out until after they sign the leases, and then it is too late," said Rueda. The association spokesman said the company in charge of the water system, DZL, says there is no problem with the water. Rueda then showed the council samples ranging from a slight dingy color, to a dark brown sludge. "This is the water we are expected to bathe in, clean and cook with, drink, and expose our children to. This smelly brown water is changing the color and taste of our food, staining our clothes, our bodies, our apartment fixtures, and everything it comes in contact with," said Rueda. "If there is nothing wrong with our water, why does it look like this? And why are we forced to buy bottled water so that we may have safe water to drink and cook with?" Rueda then produced copies of water testing reports from the Department of Environmental Protection and a private company, QC Laboratories from Southampton, Pa. The association paid the private testing company. QC Labs' results showed levels of iron, manganese and zinc levels well above the state standards, he said. The DEP did its own tests after notification of QC Labs results. DEP results came back as "turbidity, iron, and manganese are all elevated well beyond the maximum standards." Rueda said the last report from DZL, dated June2, 2003 showed acceptable standards for manganese and no test results for zinc or iron. He said, "They also state, We are pleased to report that our drinking water meets federal and state safety requirements. We have learned through monitoring and testing that some contaminants have been detected. As you can see by the table, our system had no violations. We are proud that our drinking water meets or exceeds all Federal and State safety requirements.'" Rueda alleges results from the QC Lab indicate the well's water holding tank is becoming unusable. "The simple solution," he explained, "would be to by-pass the existing holding tank, and install a new tank or rubber bladders." This would eliminate the situation and make the water safe to use. "Unfortunately, the landlord refuses to recognize that there is a problem and will not take any action to correct our water situation," said Rueda. Kenneth Hawkswell, West Milford health officer says he's received a memo from Councilman Dennis Kirwan regarding the matter and immediately contacted the DEP. Subsequent state tests were inconclusive. Hawkswell said that the problem is under the jurisdiction of the DEP, however he intends to inspect the site anyway. The issue is one the landlord needs to address, according to the health officer. None of the residents at the council meeting would reveal the landlord's name.