Apr 30, 2020

Providence Water to Replace Lead Water Pipes

Providence Water, the largest provider of drinking water in Rhode Island, is in the process of replacing lead water pipes 

lead in water

Providence Water, the state’s largest water utility, stopped installing lead service lines in 1945. Nevertheless, about one out of every six of its customers have service lines made of lead, reported ecoRI News.

Most of these lead service lines are located in Providence, Cranston, Johnston and North Providence. 

Only a few hundred of Providence’s 28,000 private-side lines made of lead are replaced each year. Providence Water has replaced approximately 18,600 public side lead service lines since 1996 and is in the process of continuing these efforts.

A proposal to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was created by the Providence Water Supply Board. The PUC is expected to rule this year on whether Providence Water can increase rates to spend $3 million annually on private-side replacements, reported ecoRI News. Providence Water will be able to spend $3 million on a loan program, which will offer 10-year, interest-free loans to property owners to cover service-line replacement. 

$10 million has been freed up due to a temporary federal rule change that allows states to use a portion of the federal money they receive for water quality projects to pay for lead pipe projects, according to ecoRI news. In January, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) approved a $19.1 million loan to state water districts to conduct rehabilitation on water mains, which includes the replacement of public-side lead service lines.

RIIB expects to approve requests for those funds from Providence Water, the Bristol County Water Authority, the Greenville Water District in Smithfield, and the water authority in Newport in the next 18 months, according to ecoRI News. 

Providence Water spiked to 30 ppb in 2009 and 2013 and has not stayed below the EPA threshold for consecutive testing periods since 2015, reported ecoRI News. Under federal regulations, water utilities that fail to meet this threshold are required to replace 3% of their lead service lines annually. Providence Water has a target of replacing 7% of these lines annually.

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