NORTHERN Ireland Water has refused to disclose detailed minutes of a board meeting at which the proposal for an exploratory oil drill at Woodburn Forest was discussed and approved.
The meeting, held on July 24th 2013, contained only a brief mention of the item on its minutes and NI Water has said it will not be publishing more detailed correspondence due to confidentiality concerns.
The meeting was chaired by Sean Hogan, then NI Water chairman, who signed off on the approvals along with Trevor Haslett, then chief executive of NI Water.
The current chief executive, Sara Venning, was among those present at the meeting.
NI Water considered the matter under an item entitled 'proposal for oil exploration at Woodburn Catchment in Carrickfergus'.
The minutes read: "The board considered the proposal in detail. The board was assured that contamination risk had been dealt with in the pre-conditions for NIW land being accessed for this project. It was agreed that DRD should also be notified of this proposal."
However, NI Water has refused to disclose more details of the proposals, including documents considered by the board in approving the decision, when requested under Freedom of Information legislation by a campaigner against the InfraStrata project.
Citing its reason for refusing to publish the correspondence which led to the approval, NI Water said that disclosure could "be deemed to inhibit the free and frank exchange of views between senior management colleagues for the purposes of executive consideration or discussion."
Correspondence which involves the disclosure of internal communications can, with certain criteria, be exempted from publication under Freedom of Information.
In its response, NI Water said it had to balance public interest with "protecting sensitive information."
Last month the agency insisted it "prioritises water safety" amid claims it breached 100-year-old water legislation by allowing InfraStrata to develop the exploratory oil drill.
NI Water has leased the land at Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus, for the next 50 years to the company despite a clause in the 1899 Act only allowing the land to be leased for a maximum of three years.
Campaigners are continuing their protests, concerned about the potential impact on the water supply to thousands of homes in Belfast and across Co Antrim.
NI Water has previously said that it has "no concerns" about the quality of the drinking water.