Marieville up next for town’s lead water pipe replacement

Marieville up next for town’s lead water pipe replacement

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The town continued on its march toward the goal of becoming the only lead-free water pipe community in the state last week, winning praise from residents on efforts to prevent a potential future health crisis.

Mayor Charles Lombardi says while officials from other communities seem reluctant to take advantage of available money to address lead water pipes “because they didn’t want to scare anyone,” he saw the opportunity to get out in front of the situation and set residents up for a safer future.

Dozens of residents turned out to Marieville Elementary School on March 12 for a neighborhood meeting on the “Remove the Whole Lead Pipe Program,” the only program of its kind in the state attempting to eliminate all lead water pipes, according Lombardi.

“Please be assured that the water is safe to drink,” stated an announcement for that meeting, which was hosted by the Providence Water Supply Board and the town of North Providence. “North Providence and Providence Water are working to solve issues before they become problems.”

Even those Marieville residents who aren’t directly impacted by lead pipes learned how they’ll benefit from the planned project, said Lombardi, as Providence Water will clean all lines as they switch out lead pipes running to homes.

“It may not be an issue today, but at some point down the line, it could be a health concern,” he said.

Residents also learned specifics of when crews might be on their street and how the work will occur.

The mayor said he learned a great deal through the handling of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and said he wanted no part of that in North Providence’s future.

Providence Water identified spots that had a problem or potential problem, and the town then went after the money.

“Providence Water was elated that we chose to hit this head-on,” said Lombardi.

Providence Water began addressing lead pipe concerns last year after instances of elevated lead in some customers’ water in 2016.

Using $270,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds through HUD, plus $350,000 in matching funds from Providence Water, the town is replacing lead pipes from lot lines to homes, and Providence Water is removing them from the main line to the lot line.

The $270,000 got the town through planned pipe upgrades in the village of Centredale, and the rest of that money will be used in Marieville, said Lombardi. The town will be applying for additional CDBG funds to continue the project here and across town, he said.

Officials say they hope to address 563 qualifying low and moderate income properties in North Providence that are served by Providence Water and are impacted by lead water pipes.

Water from the Providence Water Supply Board is used by about two-thirds of Rhode Island, or 600,000 people. Water comes from the Scituate Reservoir.

The cost of addressing the line from the main water pipe to the house is between $3,500 and $4,000, said the mayor.

Dean Martilli, consultant for the town on the project, commended Lombardi for originally reaching out to Michael Tondra, chief of housing and community development for Rhode Island, about the possibility of using the CDBG program to address lead pipes. The mayor then worked with officials to get enough money to address a significant number of homes, said Martilli, work that began in Centredale last year.

Lombardi worked off his good relationship with Ricky Caruolo, general manager of Providence Water, to identify homes and pull the program together, said Martilli. He said the mayor has been clear that the program will continue until all connections have been addressed.

“He’s eliminating a potential health hazard, and he’s not paying for it,” added Martilli.

In Centredale, 53 homes were identified, and 20 of those still need to be completed over the next six weeks or so. The final step of that phase one project will be total restoration of roads where work was done, said Martilli.

In phase two, another 54 homes are being targeted in Marieville.

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.