BP's Dome Clogs While Oil Gushes Into Gulf

There's been yet another setback with efforts to stop the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil that have been leaking into the Gulf waters off the Louisiana coast. BP hoped that a 100-ton steel and concrete box lowered into the water would cover the broken well and stop the leak, but ice-like crystals clogged the top of the dome.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

There has been yet another setback with efforts to stop the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil that have been leaking into the Gulf waters off the Louisiana coast. BP hoped that a 100-ton steel and concrete box lowered into the water would cover the broken well and stop the leak, but ice-like crystals clogged the top of the dome.

NPR's Kathy Lohr has the story.

KATHY LOHR: BP's first efforts to get the containment box in place ran into major problems. Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles says crews carefully lowered the box over the broken well but he says a slushy mixture of gas and water, called hydrates, made the box too buoyant.

Mr. DOUG SUTTLES (Chief Operating Officer, BP): So, what we had to do was pick the dome back up, set it over to the side while we evaluate what options we have to actually try to prevent the hydrate formation of find some other method to try to capture the flow.

LOHR: The cold water 5,000 feet below the surface is partly to blame. Officials have been cautious about expectations for capping the well, and they stress they're trying completely new technology. Now, BP says it may take until tomorrow to figure out the next move. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry.

Ms. MARY LANDRY (Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard): This dome is no silver bullet to stop the leak, and we continue to work on all fronts with more than 10,000 personnel now.

LOHR: More than three million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20th. The company continues to drill a relief well, but that could take months. Landry says dozens of crews continue to respond, skimming the water, applying dispersants and searching for oil that might reach the shore, but it appears that is already happening.

Off the marshy Louisiana coast, an oily sheen has washed into the Chandeleur Islands, and more than 100 miles away at Dolphin Island, Alabama, shoreline assessment teams examined blobs of sticky tar, some as large as golf balls, that washed ashore on a public beach Saturday. People living all along the Gulf are worried the spill will contaminate more beaches and destroy coastal wetlands.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Plaquemine's Parish, Louisiana.

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