Why are there still lead pipes in Providence, RI?
Cost. The budget approval process for Providence's main water utility, Providence Water, involves three governing bodies: Providence Water itself, the Public Utilities Commission, and the city council. Increasing water rates is the easiest way to fund total lead line replacement, but for that to happen, all three bodies must all agree to do so.
Implementation. Hiring contractors to replace public lead lines is difficult due to shortage of labor available to execute such a large-scale infrastructure project.
Community Buy-In. Total lead line replacement will also require homeowners and landlords to replace their own lead pipes, which can be politically unpopular and difficult to mandate.
Providence Water introduced a zero-interest loan program in May 2018 which allowed homeowners to pay no interest for up to 3 years on a loan of about $3,000, which covers the cost of replacing the home-side of the line. During this first iteration of the program, 348 residents opted into the program, and 291 home-side line were replaced. In May 2020, Providence received a $3 million loan from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank to fund a revised version of the program in which Providence offers residents a 10 year zero-interest loan that does not exceed $4,500. The City of Providence will finance completely the replacement of the city-side portion of the lead lines for residents who partake in the program.
North Providence, RI
Providence Water Customer Service
Councilman Michael J. Correia,
Chairperson of the Public Works Committee, Providence City Council
Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris,
Chairperson of the Urban Redevelopment, Renewal, and Planning Committee, Providence City Council
Rhode Island Department of Health, Public Water
Childhood Lead Action Project
Phone: (401) 785-1310