Lead water pipes which serve more than 3,000 homes in Bedford are to be removed at a cost of more than £1 million.
They are being replaced with plastic pipes ahead of new European standards on the amount of lead allowed in drinking water.
Work will target 63 streets in the town centre and in the Goldington and Queens Park areas between now and the end of next year.
The new European standards, which come into force in 2013, will see the limit on lead in drinking water more than halve, from 25 to 10 parts per billion.
Bedford is one of the first places to benefit from the replacement work because of the town’s high number of older properties, which are served by lead pipes.
Toni Holtby, Lead Strategy Manager for Anglian Water, said: “Awareness of levels of lead in the environment has increased during recent years with the move to lead free petrol and paints.
“Where lead is found in tap water, it usually comes from old lead pipe work connecting the property to the water main or in the internal plumbing. In Bedford we are now replacing large amounts of that old pipework as part of our continual programme of investment in improving water quality.
She added: “With work on this scale there will inevitably be some disruption. We are working closely with Bedford Borough Council to keep this to a minimum and there are currently no plans to close roads as part of this replacement work. We will keep people informed throughout the work.”
The work only covers those pipes, known as communications pipes, which are owned by Anglian Water and which connect it’s water mains to people’s private service pipes.
The service pipes, which run from the building to its boundary with the street, are the responsibility of the property owner.
Toni Holtby said: “It is likely that if our communications pipe is lead then your service pipes will be too. “The surest way to prevent lead getting into your drinking water is to replace all lead pipework; however you can take steps to reduce the amount of lead levels at your tap.
Work is due to start on October 16 in Trinity Road and Risborough Road with public drop in sessions for residents of Queens Park on Tuesday, October 9, and for people living in Goldington South the following day.
Tuesday’s exhibition will be held in Bedford Moravian Church in Howard Avenue between 3.30pm and 6.30pm. Wednesday’s will be in the Holy Cross Church, Goldington Road between 3.30pm and 6pm.
There will be a third session for people in the town centre in February.
Toni Holtby said: “I would invite anyone living in those streets and who wants to know more to pop along and see us.”