CONTAMINATED animals are being exhumed after Government officials buried them on top of a farm's water supply.

The burial blunder at Houslop Farm, in Tow Law, near Bishop Auckland, has caused great heartache in the small farming community.

Confusion reigned in the village after farmers heard that stock belonging to Doug Forster would have to be burned instead, causing fears that foot-and-mouth would spread further.

But Mr Forster and army officials said there would be no fire and the animals would be taken away to a land-fill site.

Mr Forster witnessed 250 cattle and more than 800 sheep destroyed and buried when foot-and-mouth was confirmed at his farm more than two weeks ago.

But now it has emerged that a natural spring supplying the family's water has become contaminated as a result of the grim burial.

Lieut Col Gary Donaldson said that there had been a genuine mix-up.

"The contractor asked for two possible sites to be investigated and some confusion arose.

"The details of which sites had permission were transposed,'' said the Royal Artillery Officer.

Mr Forster was sanguine about the mix-up.

"There's no problem, but there's been an awful lot of stories going around,'' he said. "The animals are going to be dug up, loaded on to wagons and taken away within a week or so.''

Durham County councillor for Weardale, John Shuttleworth, said he had received calls from anxious farmers worrying about yet another pyre.

"I am happy that they are going to be re-buried but the sight for him and his family must be horrendous,'' said Coun Shuttleworth.

"I think the sooner they are dug up and put in another place and everything is put back, the better.''