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4/4/2023 Local, state leaders gather in North Providence to highlight lead pipe replacement efforts
STATE HOUSE – Today, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) joined U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Gov. Dan McKee, North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, and other state and local leaders in North Providence to highlight progress made toward replacement of all lead pipes in Rhode Island’s water supply, and to support the General Assembly’s passage of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act to build on that momentum.
Lead water service lines were commonly used in older construction, and thousands remain in use in Rhode Island. Corrosion of these pipes can allow lead to enter drinking water, which poses serious health risks, especially for children. Lead poisoning can affect children’s mental and physical development and lead to serious, lifelong health problems.
While lead poisoning has declined in recent decades, far too many Rhode Island families remain at risk – especially in lower-income and historically marginalized communities. In recent years, action on the national, state, and local levels has resulted in new progress to fully address this threat to public health.
As Gov. McKee highlighted last year, approximately $141 million is being provided to Rhode Island water suppliers via the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank for lead pipe replacement over the next five years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Biden in 2021. An additional $3.3 million has been secured by Sen. Reed and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse specifically to address lead exposure within the Providence Water service area.
In the General Assembly, President Ruggerio and Representative William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) have introduced the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (2023-S-0002, 2023-H 5007) to augment the federal resources. The legislation would create a lead water supply replacement program for both public and private service lines, with a requirement that all affected lines are replaced within 10 years. Financial assistance for lead pipe replacement would be provided through the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, including no-cost options for property owners. To help develop the state’s workforce, the legislation would set requirements for water suppliers and contractors to participate in apprenticeship programs.
Communities have also taken action. North Providence has been a nationally recognized leader with its Remove the Whole Lead Pipe Program, and the town recently secured a $218,000 grant through the Infrastructure Bank and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue its lead pipe replacement work.
“Removing lead pipes is a costly endeavor. But it’s worth every penny. That is why I’m helping to deliver an estimated $141 million dedicated to lead pipe replacement in Rhode Island through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This is in addition to the $13 million I’ve helped secure since 2020 to offset the cost of lead service line replacement in Providence, Woonsocket, and other communities. The state is tapping these federal funds to protect and improve the health of Rhode Islanders by eliminating lead pipes and removing barriers to clean, safe drinking water,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped deliver historic levels of federal funding for lead service line replacement through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (P.L. 117-58), which includes more than $50 billion in water infrastructure investments, with $15 billion set aside at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically for states to remove lead service lines.
“No family should have to worry that their home’s water supply may be poisoning their children. A home should be a safe and nurturing environment, and every family deserves access to safe, lead-free, potable drinking water,” President Ruggerio said. “I want to applaud Sen. Reed and our federal delegation, Governor McKee, the Town of North Providence, my legislative colleagues, and many others who have committed to addressing this serious issue. The Lead Poisoning Prevention Act will provide new urgency, and much needed additional resources, to this effort, helping us protect our children’s well-being and the health of all Rhode Islanders.”
“The science is very clear about the dangers that lead pipes pose to our health, particularly so for our children, but unfortunately, there are still far too many lead pipes in our state that are providing water to our residents. This bill will quicken the timetable to having complete lead-free drinking water in our state, protecting the health and well-being of our residents and their children,” Rep. O’Brien said.
“Lead water pipes are a serious threat to the health of our communities, and I’m proud that North Providence has been a leader in addressing this issue proactively. We have worked hard to make sure the citizens of our town understand the urgency of this work, and we hope the progress we’ve made can provide an example for other cities and towns across Rhode Island,” Mayor Lombardi said. “I want to thank Senator Reed, Senate President Ruggerio, Representative O’Brien, Governor McKee, and the other leaders who have made removing all lead pipes across our state a priority. The Lead Poisoning Prevention Act is a critical next step to supplement the resources our federal delegation has helped to secure.”
“We cannot take our access to clean drinking water for granted. In fact, we must do everything we can to protect and enhance it,” Governor McKee said. “Right now, Rhode Island has an historic opportunity to tap into federal funding for upgrades to treatment facilities, water mains, and lead pipes that will provide residents with clean water and help our environment for generations to come. That’s why my budget proposal provides millions of dollars in matching funds for clean water and drinking programs, including initiatives to replace lead pipes. I thank our Congressional Delegation for bringing these critical funds to Rhode Island and I applaud the Senate President and the legislature for keeping the momentum going when it comes to keeping families safe.”
“Lead pipe replacement is a sound and needed investment for the health and well-being of our state. We know that historically the danger of lead pipes has impacted low-income and communities of color, and no child or family should have to worry about drinking-water that could pose a risk to their health,” said General Treasurer Diossa. “With passage of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, we will ensure that no family in Rhode Island – from North Providence to Newport – is at risk of lead exposure.”
“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Rhode Island is set to receive over $141 million to replace lead drinking water service lines across the state,” said Jeffrey Diehl, CEO of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. “This is a huge step forward in addressing a major public health issue, however additional funding will be needed to remove all lead services from our state's public water systems. We thank our Congressional delegation for securing these federal funds, and look forward to working with Governor McKee, Senate President Ruggerio, Speaker Shekarchi, and Representative O’Brien to pass the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act to secure additional dollars to remove all lead drinking water pipes in Rhode Island.”
“Reliable water infrastructure is essential to delivering affordable and safe water. When water infrastructure fails, it threatens people’s health, peace of mind, and the environment. Just as everyone deserves the right to a safe and healthy workplace, everyone deserves the right to clean and safe drinking water,” said Erica Hammond, Lead Organizer at Climate Jobs Rhode Island.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Kittredge, Deputy Directory of Communications
State House Room 112
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 276-5516