THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Oil soaks birds, marshes in La.

BP says efforts to slow leak not effective as before

A BP cleanup crew removed oil from a beach yesterday at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Officials now say that it may be impossible to clean the hundreds of miles of coastal wetlands affected by the massive oil spill, which continues to gush into Gulf of Mexico. A BP cleanup crew removed oil from a beach yesterday at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Officials now say that it may be impossible to clean the hundreds of miles of coastal wetlands affected by the massive oil spill, which continues to gush into Gulf of Mexico. (John Moore/ Getty Images)
By Greg Bluestein
Associated Press / May 24, 2010

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COVINGTON, La. — President Obama has sent three top administration back to the Gulf Coast to monitor the massive oil spill that seems to have no end in sight, as BP officials said yesterday that one of their efforts to slow the leak wasn’t working as effectively as before.

The dire impact of the spill was apparent yesterday on oil-soaked islands where pelicans nest. Several of the birds splashed in the water and preened, apparently trying to clean crude from their feet and wings.

Pelican eggs were glazed with rust-colored gunk in the bird colony, and thick globs floated on top of the water. Nests sat precariously close to the mess in mangrove trees. Workers had surrounded the island in Barataria Bay with the booms, but oil seeped through the barrier.

BP spokesman John Curry said yesterday that the milelong tube inserted into the leaking well siphoned some 57,120 gallons of oil within the past 24 hours, a sharp drop from the 92,400 gallons of oil a day that the device was sucking up on Friday.

However, the company has said the amount of oil siphoned will vary widely from day to day.

Engineers are working furiously to stem the growing ooze as more wildlife and delicate coastal wetlands are tainted despite the oil-absorbing booms placed around shorelines to protect them.

“As we talk, a total of more than 65 miles of our shoreline now has been oiled,’’ said Governor Bobby Jindal, who announced that the state has begun work on chain of sandbag berms, reinforced with containment booms, that would skirt the state’s coastline.

The Army Corps of Engineers also is considering a broader plan that would use dredging to build sand berms across more of the barrier islands.

Lisa Jackson, the chief of the US Environmental Protection Agency, was headed to Louisiana yesterday, where she planned to visit with frustrated residents.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano were to lead a Senate delegation to the region today to fly over affected areas and keep an eye on the response.

Salazar said yesterday that he is not completely confident that BP knows what it’s doing. “If we find they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately,’’ he said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also told CBS’ “Face the Nation’’ yesterday that Justice Department officials have been to the region gathering information about the spill. However, he wouldn’t say whether the department has opened a criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, the official responsible for the oversight of the month-old spill response said he understands the discontent among residents who want to know what’s next.

“If anybody is frustrated with this response, I would tell them their symptoms are normal, because I’m frustrated, too,’’ said Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen. “Nobody likes to have a feeling that you can’t do something about a very big problem.’’

Obama has named a special independent commission to review what happened. He also announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new wells and a halt to the type of waiver that had been given to BP and other companies exempting them from certain environmental reviews. However, regulators have continued issuing permits and environmental waivers for various types of drilling in the Gulf.

The spill began after the rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later. At least 6 million gallons of crude have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico since, though a growing number of scientists have said they believe it’s more.

BP said it will be at least tomorrow before engineers can shoot mud into the blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf, yet another delay in the effort to stop the oil.

A so-called “top kill’’ has been tried on land but never 5,000 feet underwater, so scientists and engineers have spent the past week preparing and taking measurements to make sure it will stop the oil that has been spewing into the sea for a month. They originally hoped to try it as early as this past weekend.

Crews will shoot heavy mud into a crippled piece of equipment atop the well. Then engineers will direct cement at the well to permanently stop the oil. .

Engineers are also developing several other plans in case the top kill doesn’t work, including an effort to shoot knotted rope, pieces of tire, and other material — known as a junk shot — to plug the blowout preventer, which was meant to shut off the oil in case of an accident but did not work.