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Cap collects some oil; beaches still tainted

June 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Engineers placed a lid-like device designed to cap the gushing oil leak, but crude oil still washed ashore the Gulf Coast's once-pristine beaches Saturday.The inverted funnel-like lid, which was put in place Thursday, is designed to channel oil for pumping to a surface tanker. The Coast Guard says the cap has managed to collect more than 250,000 gallons of oil in its first 24 hours of use. However, the slick still stained beaches and left an unusual orange foam in the surf.

BP engineers hoped to close several open vents on the cap throughout the day in the latest attempt to contain the oil. One unanswered question was whether the cap fit snugly. BP's hope is to get the containment cap to collect 75 percent of the oil that's pouring out every day.

But even if the lid turns out to be a success, thousands of gallons of oil will continue to gush into the gulf until relief wells are completed, with any luck, at the end of the summer.

A number of colored hoses have been loosely attached to the cap to help combat the near-freezing temperatures and icylike crystals that could clog it.

Thursday, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen guessed that the cap was collecting 42,000 gallons a day - less than one-tenth of the amount leaking from the well. He added that the latest attempt will be, at best, a temporary and partial fix.

Latest developments:

  • BP CEO Tony Hayward wrote on a company Twitter account Saturday that the firm has been committed since the start of the oil spill to paying all legitimate financial claims. These comments come after President Barack Obama said he didn't want BP "nickel-and-diming people." BP estimated this week that it would spend approximately $84 million through June to make up for lost wages and profits caused by the oil spill.
  • President Obama arrived for his third visit to the stricken Gulf Coast for a fresh reality check on work to stanch the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. The president said Saturday that he will stand with Gulf Coast residents "until they are made whole" from the oil spill catastrophe.
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejects a more forceful role for the military in plugging the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. Gates says the deep-water disaster is beyond the military's expertise. Gates said Friday that the U.S. military is ready to do whatever it can to respond. But he said there isn't much the military can do beyond providing some manpower.
  • 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 blowout. The volume turned out to be much closer to that figure than the 42,000 gallons per day that BP first estimated. Weeks later that was revised to 210,000 gallons. Now, an estimated 500,000 to 1 million gallons of crude is believed to be leaking daily.
  • The oil has now reached the shores of four Gulf states - Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida - turning its marshlands into death zones for wildlife and staining its beaches rust and crimson in an affliction that some said brought to mind the plagues and punishments of the Bible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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