Giant dome for Gulf oil leak is next best solution
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The best short-term solution to bottling up a disastrous oil spill threatening sealife and livelihoods along the Gulf Coast should be headed out to sea today in the form of a specially built giant concrete-and-steel box designed to siphon the oil away. At about midday, a barge will haul the 100-ton contraption 50 miles offshore to a spot where a mile-deep gusher from a blown-out undersea well has been spewing at least 210,000 gallons of crude a day into the Gulf for two weeks. BP spokesman John Curry said it would be deployed on the seabed by Thursday. It's the latest idea engineers from oil giant BP PLC are trying after an oil rig the company was operating exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. It sank two days later. BP is in charge of the cleanup and President Barack Obama and many others have said the company also is responsible for the costs. BP capped one of three leaks at the well Tuesday night, a step that will not cut the flow of oil but that BP has said will make it easier to help with the gusher. "It doesn't lessen the flow, it just simplifies the number of leak points they have to address," Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley said. The capped leak was more than 800 feet from the blowout preventer, which sits over the well head on the seafloor. Most of the oil is coming from a leak about 460 feet from the preventer, while a smaller leak is still allowing oil to escape from a crack where the pipe casing bent about 5 feet from the top of the preventer. Meanwhile, the effort to protect Louisiana coastal wetlands was expected to pick up. In Plaquemines Parish, officials loaded absorbent boom shortly after dawn to take out to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The barge will be used as a distribution point for local fishermen to lay the boom around sensitive marshes. Par i sh Pres ident Bi l l y Nungesser said the parish has 24 miles of the boom. Workers in yellow rain suits scrubbed air boats. At a nearby marina, local shrimpers planned to use their boats to put down boom as part of a program BP is running. In all, about 7,900 people are working to protect the shoreline and wildlife, and some 170 boats are also helping with the cleanup. A rainbow sheen of oil has reached land in parts of Louisiana, but forecasts showed the oil wasn't expected to come ashore for at least a couple more days. "It's a gift of a little bit of time. I'm not resting," U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said. In their worst-case scenario, BP executives told members of a congressional committee that up to 2.5 million gallons a day could spill if the leaks worsened, though it would be more like 1.7 million gallons. In an exploration plan filed with the government in February 2009, BP said it could handle a "wor s t - cas e s c enar io" i t described as a leak of 6.8 million gallons per day from an uncontrolled blowout. Containment boxes have never been tried at this depth — about 5,000 feet — because of the extreme water pressure. If all goes well, the contraption could be fired up early next week to start funneling the oil into a tanker.