Jun 4, 2010 11:13 AM by Melissa Canone
GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) - Waves of gooey tar balls crashed into the
white sands of the Florida Panhandle on Friday as BP engineers
adjusted a sophisticated cap over the Gulf oil gusher, trying to
collect the crude.
Even though the inverted funnel-like device was set over the
leak late Thursday, crude continued to spew into the sea in the
nation's worst oil spill. Engineers hoped to close several open
vents on the cap throughout the day in the latest attempt to
contain the oil.
The cap has different colored hoses loosely attached to it to
help combat the near-freezing temperatures and icylike crystals
that could clog it. The device started pumping oil and gas to a
tanker on the surface overnight, but it wasn't clear how much.
"Progress is being made, but we need to caution against
over-optimism," said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's
point man for the disaster.
He said a very rough estimate of current collection would be
about 42,000 gallons a day, though he stressed the information was
In Florida, spotters who had been seeing a few tar balls in
recent days found a substantially larger number before dawn on the
beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and nearby areas, a
county emergency official said. The park is a long string of
connected barrier islands near Pensacola.
Just to the west at Gulf Shores, Ala., Wendi Butler watched
glistening clumps of oil roll onto the white sand beach during a
morning stroll. An oily smell was in the air.
"You don't smell the beach breeze at all," said Butler, 40.
Butler moved to Perdido Bay from Mobile days before the spill.
Now, her two kids don't want to visit because of the oil and she
can't find a job.
"Restaurants are cutting back to their winter staffs because of
it. They're not hiring," she said.
President Barack Obama was set to visit the Louisiana coast
Friday, his second trip in a week and the third since the disaster
unfolded following an April 20 oil rig explosion. Eleven workers
Robots a mile beneath the Gulf were shooting chemical
dispersants at the escaping oil - though it looked more like flares
when illuminated a mile underwater.
To put the cap in place, BP had to slice off the main pipe with
giant shears after a diamond-edged saw became stuck. By doing so,
they risked increasing the flow by as much as 20 percent, though
Allen said it was still too soon know whether that had happened.
"Once the containment cap is on and it's working, we hope the
rate is significantly reduced," he said.
The jagged cut forced crews to use a looser fitting cap, but
Allen did not rule out trying to again smooth out the cut with the
diamond saw if officials aren't satisfied with the current cap.
The best chance to plug the leak is a pair of relief wells,
which are at least two months away. The well has spit out between
22 million and 47 million gallons of oil, according to government
In oil-soaked Grand Isle, BP representative Jason French might
as well have painted a bulls-eye on his back. His mission was to be
BP's representative at a meeting for 50 or so residents who had
gathered at a church to vent.
"We are all angry and frustrated," he said. "Feel free
tonight to let me see that anger. Direct it at me, direct it at BP,
but I want to assure you, the folks in this community, that we are
working hard to remedy the situation."
Residents weren't buying it.
"Sorry doesn't pay the bills," said Susan Felio Price, who
lives near Grand Isle.
"Through the negligence of BP we now find ourselves trying to
roller-skate up a mountain," she said. "We're growing really
weary. We're tired. We're sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Someone's got to help us get to the top of that mountain."
Obama shared some of that anger ahead of his Gulf visit. He told
CNN's Larry King that he was frustrated and used his strongest
language in assailing BP.
"I am furious at this entire situation because this is an
example where somebody didn't think through the consequences of
their actions," Obama said. "This is imperiling an entire way of
life and an entire region for potentially years."
Meanwhile, newly disclosed internal Coast Guard documents from
the day after the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig
indicated that U.S. officials were warning of a leak of 336,000
gallons per day of crude from the well in the event of a complete
The volume turned out to be much closer to that figure than the
42,000 gallons per day that BP first estimated. Weeks later it was
revised to 210,000 gallons. Now, an estimated 500,000 to 1 million
gallons of crude is believed to be leaking daily.
The Center for Public Integrity, which initially reported the
Coast Guard logs, said it obtained them from Rep. Darrell Issa,
R-Calif., ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government
The logs also showed early in the disaster that remote
underwater robots were unable to activate the rig's blowout
preventer, which was supposed to shut off the flow from the well in
the event of such a catastrophic failure.
The damage to the environment was chilling on East Grand Terre
Island along the Louisiana coast, where workers found birds coated
in thick, black goo. Images shot by an Associated Press
photographer show Brown pelicans drenched in thick oil, struggling
and flailing in the surf.
Officials say 60 birds, including 41 pelicans, were coated with
oil when strong winds blew a heavy slick from the Gulf of Mexico
spill to the rookery. The birds were being rescued and taken to a
center for cleaning at Fort Jackson.
BP CEO Tony Hayward promised that the company would clean up
every drop of oil and "restore the shoreline to its original
"BP will be here for a very long time. We realize this is just
the beginning," he said.
Those on Grand Isle seemed less than convinced by BP's
"We want you to feel what we feel," said Leoda Bladsacker, a
member of the town's council, as her voice trembled. "We're not
going to be OK for a long, long time."