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NORTH PROVIDENCE – The town continues to be a trailblazer when it comes to its lead pipe replacement program, with officials planning to spend another $355,376 in federal grant funds this year to replace another 100 or so connections.
Mayor Charles Lombardi said he’s proud that North Providence remains the only community in the state taking such an aggressive approach to lead pipe replacements, paying the fee while residents in other communities have to pay their own way.
North Providence completed about 70 connections last year, using $270,376 in Community Development Block Grant funds, leading to the town winning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Award last fall.
Most connections done last year were in the Centredale area, said Lombardi, with a few more in Marieville. That work on the eastern edge of town will continue this year, with available funds required to be used by Dec. 19.
“We’re taking it on,” he said.
Each new clean connection costs about $3,500 to complete.
The town is again applying for CDBG funding this year, with awards to be announced in May for additional projects next year. The mayor said he sees this as a creative way to get needed work done, with clean water often contaminated by lead as it heads into a home.
In total, North Providence originally had 563 homes with lead pipe connections as of three years ago, many of those in areas where residents earn low and moderate incomes.
“We’re keying in on areas where people may not be able to afford it,” said Lombardi.
Dean Martilli, project manager for the town’s Remove the Whole Lead Pipe Program, said the town is focused on finishing up work on 21 streets this year. When people call, especially if they have young children, officials try to fit them in, he said.
As far as he knows, said Martilli, only one other New England town, a community in New Hampshire, is doing this type of program to fund the replacement of lead connections.
Providence Water is planning to invest $5.6 million this year in enhancements on the public connection side, he said.
North Providence did between 53 and 56 connections in year one of this program, about 70 last year, and will do close to 100 this year as part of an aggressive funding plan, said Martilli, leaving fewer than 350 connections still to be done.
“We’re getting it down,” he said, noting that the town is ahead of its 10-year plan to get all lead pipes replaced.
“If we have a good year this year, it would be awesome,” he said.
The town will host a joint meeting with Providence Water on April 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Marieville Elementary School. There officials will answer questions from residents on the program, including the needed digging in local roads to get the connections completed.
According to Providence Water, which supplies water to North Providence and surrounding communities, private side lead pipe replacements are available to residents across the company’s service area.
Providence Water is doing public side service line replacements in Marieville this summer, according to a spokesman, and Lombardi is using the CDBG funds to pay for replacements on the private side as well.
According to a news release, Providence Water has found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some area homes and buildings. While drinking water leaving the treatment plant in Scituate and journeying through the Providence Water distribution system has no detectable levels of lead, some of the service pipes and plumbing fixtures such as faucets, valves, brass pipes and pipe solder can contain lead.
Abundant supplies made lead the metal of choice for plumbing use prior to World War II. In older homes built before 1947, there is a strong probability that some or all of the building’s pipes, fixtures and soldered plumbing connections consist of lead, brass or lead-based solder.
When standing water is exposed to lead pipes or fixtures and solder for more than a few hours, lead can leach into the standing water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the afternoon after returning home from work or school, can contain higher levels of lead.
Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for young children and pregnant women.
Providence Water is now offering three-year, zero percent loans for homeowners to replace private lead service lines. If a homeowner replaces their private side of the service line (from the curb stop/property line to the house), Providence Water will automatically replace the public side (from the water main in the street to the curb stop/property line) of the service line at no cost.
Providence Water customers in Providence, Cranston, North Providence, Johnston and East Smithfield can pick up a free lead test kit at the agency’s customer service location in Providence, 125 Dupont Drive, to test their drinking water. For more information on how they can get their water tested, customers can call 401-521-6303.
Those interested in knowing more about the Remove the Whole Lead Pipe Program, including whether they qualify for lead pipe replacement, should call 401-477-4297.
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