IT COULD be as long as a week before Environment Agency experts can be sure whether water downstream from a contaminated burial site is safe.

Samples from Houselop Beck, which runs through farmland between Tow Law and the River Wear, west of Wolsingham, County Durham, are being checked for infection after 900 sheep and cattle carcasses were buried by mistake in a quarry 15 metres from a spring.

A survey of the stream fed by the spring has found no sign of pollution and the agency, which had supplied grid references and instructions for a site 500 metres from the pit, has assured people in the area that their drinking supplies are safe.

Farmer Doug Forster was told by officials yesterday that water from a cracked pipe near the grave contained urine and dung.

Mr Forster faces a grim day tomorrow when the bodies of his rotting animals will be dug up and carted off to a landfill site.

He is confident that the blunder would have no lasting consequences.

He said: "The Environment Agency tell me that they don't expect any contamination from the stream at all.