The water districts have opposed the most comprehensive approach: the interest payers have to pay the bill to replace the private pipelines. Unlike other water districts, Providence’s private utilities are technically owned by the owner.
That year, the Providence Water Supply Board, the city-owned manager of Scituate Reservoir, which has 600,000 water customers, made a proposal to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to do just that. The PUC is expected this year to decide whether Providence Water can raise rates to spend $ 3 million annually on private replacements.
Recently, an additional $ 10 million was released thanks to a temporary change in federal regulations that will allow states to use some of the federal money they receive for pure water projects on projects related to lead pipes. In January, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) approved a $ 19.1 million loan to state water districts to complete water pipeline rehabilitation, including replacing public pipelines.
Over the next 18 months, RIIB is expected to approve applications for these funds from Providence Water, the Bristol County Water Authority, the Greenville Water District in Smithfield, and the Water Authority in Newport. The money will be used to reduce the around 11,000 public supply lines or the lines that are connected to a water pipe from the curb.
Providence Water also received permission to spend $ 3 million on a loan program that offers property owners 10-year interest-free loans to cover service line replacements, which can range from $ 1,900 to $ 15,000. The district’s current loan program offers interest-free loans with a term of 3 years with an average monthly payment of approximately $ 100.
“We have more than $ 20 million in lead work to do,” said Jeff Deihl, executive director of RIIB.
These programs and actions in Rhode Island were largely triggered by Providence Water’s efforts to deliver lead-safe water. The Environmental Protection Agency allows a maximum of 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead in water tests. Providence Water rose to 30 ppb in 2009 and 2013 and has not stayed below the EPA threshold for consecutive test periods since 2015.
According to federal regulations, water suppliers who do not comply with this threshold must replace 3 percent of their pipelines annually. Providence Water’s current goal is to replace 7 percent of these lines annually, with priority given to high-yield payers such as pregnant women and homes with young children.