Lead water pipes which serve around 700 homes in Bedford are to be removed at a cost of more than £500,000.
They are being replaced with plastic pipes ahead of new European standards on the amount of lead allowed in drinking water.
Work on phase two starts this week and will target a further 18 streets and these include:
Wendover Drive, Barkers Lane, Sandy Road, Brookfield Road,
Foster Hill Road, Gladstone Street, Beaconsfield Street,
Argyll Street, Wellington Street, Chaucer Road, Spenser Road,
Park Road North, Chester Road, Carlisle Road,
Hawthorne Avenue, Old Ford End Road,
Harewood Road and Gloucester Road.
This phase of the project is expected to take until January 2015 to complete.
The new European standards, which came into force last year, mean the limit on lead in drinking water has more than halved, from 25 to 10 parts per billion.
Bedford was 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. The completion of phase two will mean over £1 million has been invested in the replacement programme for over 2,000 homes across the town.
Kate Willis, Lead Strategy Manager for Anglian Water, said: “Awareness of levels of lead in the environment has increased during recent years with moves to lead free petrol and paints.
“Where very small quantities of lead are found in tap water, it’s usually found to come from old lead pipe work which connects 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 with letters and updates to our website.”
The work only covers those pipes, known as communications pipes, which are owned by Anglian Water and which connect the water mains to people’s private service pipes.
The service pipes, which run from the building to the property boundary with the street, are the responsibility of the property owner.
Kate added: “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.”
People can get more information by visiting www.anglianwater.co.uk/leadfacts or by calling the lead advice line on 0845 0703445.
>> Lead has been used as a plumbing material since Roman times. If you live in a house built before 1970, you may wish to check whether your pipework is lead. Properties built or modified after 1970 are unlikely to have lead pipes – copper or plastics are now the most commonly used materials.
To check, look for the point where the water pipe enters the house. Try and check as much of the pipe as possible. The pipe usually enters at the internal stop tap – which is often under the kitchen sink. Lead pipes are usually dark grey or black (unless painted) and the joints appear to be ‘swollen’. The metal is soft with a dull coating and when scraped gently with a coin, a shiny silver strip should be revealed.
If your home has been re-plumbed, it is still worth checking the pipe running from the water main outside your property to the stop tap inside your home. You should first scrape a short section of the pipe under your sink, but if you are still unable to tell you can scrape the pipe either side of your outside stop tap.
As a guide, other pipe materials have the following appearances:
Copper – bright or dull orange colour, and hard.
Iron – dark, very hard and may be rusty.
Plastic – may be grey, black or blue.
>> If lead pipes are causing high lead levels in your tap water you can take some simple precautions:
Only use water from the cold kitchen tap for drinking and cooking purposes because hot water dissolves more lead than cold water.
Do not drink or cook with water that has stood for a long time in the pipes i.e. water that has standing overnight, or for several hours during the day.
If water has stood in the pipes for some time, run the cold tap to flush the water out before using it. For a typical property, where the street is no more than 40 metres from the tap, just running enough to fill a washing bowl should be sufficient. You can collect this water for watering houseplants or for use in the garden.