Water from my well has been contaminated by a septic tank failure/percolation area saturation. Two years ago it was confirmed the water contained Total Form bacteria......but now I'm not sure what else may be present. Firstly, can you tell me if it is safe for me to use this water if I boil it - for tea/coffee etc. Also, may I use it to wash dishes etc? Secondly, I have been buying bottled water for drinking - I have been recycling these bottles as my friends use them to carry water from their houses to me. As they are made of plastic I am unable to sterilise them with boiling water etc and I would like to know how long the water will remain "fresh" in them. i.e. If my friend fills one of these bottles from her kitchen tap and takes it to my house, for how many days will this water be safe to use for drinking - a) as it comes out of the bottle and b) boiled for beverages, cooking vegetables etc? I am very concerned about the safety of my water consumption as I am recovering from surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer. Many thanks for your help. I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards. Adrienne de Lacy

The first point to make since the well and the surrounding area is contaminated then it isn't going to improve any time soon. Secondly i would STRONGLY advise you do not use the water for anything around the house that you come in contact with - that includes washing around the kitchen or contact with your skin. That is even more relevant given your medical problems since you will be at greater risk of infection.

If you get water from your neighbour's tap it should be safe to drink and use around the kitchen for at least 1-2 weeks and longer if boiled.