NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio says requiring communities to replace all lead water pipes might be his number one priority in 2023.

Target 12 reported on Monday that there are still more than 35,000 lead water pipes across the state.

Rhode Island is receiving $141 million from the federal bipartisan infrastructure law to help replace those pipes, but one expert told Target 12 it could cost as much as $225 million to do so.

Ruggerio introduced legislation earlier this month that would require all lead water pipes statewide to be replaced over the next 10 years. He co-sponsored a similar bill last year, which passed the Senate but died in the House.

“I’m concerned about the mental health of children who consume water with lead in it,” Ruggerio said. “And I think that has a debilitating effect.”

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Experts say lead pipes aren’t inherently dangerous, but if there’s any corrosion and the lead seeps into the water, it can cause serious health problems.

North Providence Mayor Charlie Lombardi has taken advantage of state and federal money to replace 102 lead pipes between 2016 and 2022.

“It’s becoming more and more of a public attention-grabber,” he said. “And I’m just wondering why it took so long.”

When homeowners with lead pipes are skeptical, Lombardi said he tells them, “You don’t have a problem today, but it could be a problem down the road.”

The town won the EPA’s Children’s Health Award in 2018 for removing lead pipes. North Providence just received a Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) grant, giving the town another $218,000 to continue the effort beginning this spring.

“I think it’s a very important for the health, especially of the youth in our town,” Lombardi said.

Providence Water Supply Board data shows North Providence still has more than 1,200 lead water pipes remaining after replacing 102 over the last six years.

Ruggerio said he was confident the remaining lead pipes could be replaced over the next decade.

“I think the importance of the legislation will allow us to accelerate that, and I think we have the revenue to do that,” he said.

Tolly Taylor ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook