A major Rhode Island water supplier is offering three-year, zero percent interest loans to homeowners who need to replace private lead service lines that run underground from the curb of their property to the water meter.
Providence Water will provide loans to cover the entire cost of replacing the pipes, a bill that could cost up to $3,000 per household. For any private lead pipe replaced, the water supplier will replace the connecting public lead service line at no charge.
“It’s really an incentive for the customer to remove their lead service that they are responsible for, and we figured if we paid for it up front, it might be more affordable for the customers," Ricky Caruolo, general manager for Providence Water, said.
Caruolo said Providence Water has 75,000 retail customers, but the majority of them do not have private lead service lines. However, he said that doesn't mean the utility will forget about customers who do have lead pipes.
Lead water pipes are one possible source of lead exposure, which has been linked to learning disabilities and impaired hearing in children.
Providence Water believes there are about 25,000 private lead service lines and 13,000 public lead service lines.
The loans are part of a new pilot program that was approved by Rhode Island's Public Utilities Commission earlier this year.
The program has $250,000 available for loans, which will be given out on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Ratepayers funded the program.
Providence Water is looking for additional sources of funding to increase the number of people they're able to serve.