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Cap collects more and more oil, Coast Guard says
PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The geyser of oil spewing from floor of the Gulf of Mexico is tapering off more day by day with the help of a wellhead cap, but there’s no quick fix for containing much of the crude that has already escaped and is spreading across the Gulf.
The cap now is keeping up to 462,000 gallons of oil a day from leaking into the Gulf, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Monday in Washington. That’s up from about 441,000 gallons on Saturday and about 250,000 on Friday.
Federal authorities have estimated the ruptured pipe is leaking between 500,000 gallons and 1 million gallons a day.
The battle against the oil already in the Gulf now involves “hundreds of thousands” of individual patches, said Adm. Allen, the government’s point man for the spill response. Small vessels in the area have been enlisted to help capture those patches using skimmers.
The patchy oil slick now stretches from 100 miles east of the Texas-Louisiana border to near the middle of the Florida Panhandle, and down to the open sea about 150 miles west of Tampa, Fla., officials said.
Adm. Allen elaborated on comments over the weekend that the spill cleanup would last into fall, acknowledging the full cleanup would take much longer.
“Dealing with the oil spill on the surface will take a couple of months,” he said, but the process of getting oil out of marshlands and other habitats “will be years.”
In Florida, tar balls continued to roll onto Pensacola Beach on Monday morning and left a distinct line in the sand from the high-rise condos above as the sun rose. Beach walkers had to stay between the line of dime- and quarter-size tar balls and the retreating surf or risk getting the gummy, rust-staining gunk stuck to their feet.
Jody Haas, a tourist from Aurora, Ill., was among the few walking the beach early Monday after a crowded weekend here. Ms. Haas, who has visited the beach before, said it was not the same.
“It was pristine, gorgeous, white sand,” she said. “This spot is light compared to some of the other spots farther down, and (the tar) is just everywhere here. It’s just devastating, awful.”
Officials put out a report late Sunday that dead, oiled birds had been found in Texas but retracted it Monday morning. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Nancy Brown blamed the mistake on a clerical error.
BP said Monday that the cost of the response has reached about $1.25 billion. The company said the figure does not include $360 million for a project to build six sand berms meant to protect Louisiana’s wetlands from spreading oil.
It’s not clear how much oil is still escaping from the well. The inverted funnellike cap is being closely watched for whether it can make a serious dent in the flow of new oil. The flow rates were developed by the U.S. government, which no longer is relying on the London-based oil giant for estimates.
More oil is being collected as more vents on the cap atop the blown well are closed. The process is gradual because crews need to keep water and gas from creating slush, which thwarted a previous containment effort.
The captured oil is being pumped to a ship on the surface. BP planned to bring larger vessels into the area and to “create a more permanent connection that can be disconnected easily in case we have a hurricane or bad weather later on in the hurricane season.”
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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