The Government was told more than a year ago by the Environment Agency that fracking should not be allowed near aquifers - underground rocks that contain water - because the drinking supply in Sussex could be contaminated.
But the agency's head of climate change altered the wording on a public statement so it did not create "too stark a message", according to a story in the Brighton Argus.
The water near Balcombe is not suitable for drinking, but about 75 per cent of Sussex drinking water does come from underground supplies - precisely where there are huge deposits of shale gas and oil.
In a private memo to government, a senior EA official wrote that it would object to planning applications and refuse to grant an environmental permit if a company wanted to frack where aquifers are used to supply drinking water.
In one email, released after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the official said: “Can I ask that you do not use the two sentences from … [redacted]..... while we finesse them.”
An EA spokesman told the Argus: “If the activity poses an unacceptable risk to the environment the activity will not be permitted.”
The good news, then, is that the EA would object; the bad news is that they tried to tone down the possible risks.
The toning down (or even up) of memos and reports is always fraught with danger. Weapons of Mass Destruction and Iraq springs to mind.
BRIGHTON ARGUS STORY - Secret emails reveal the risk to water in Sussex from fracking was known by officials