GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) - A wellhead cap at the bottom of the
Gulf of Mexico is slowly pinching off a geyser of oil spewing from
the earth, but there's no containing much of the crude that's
already escaped, a reality becoming increasingly evident on the
The battle to contain the oil is likely to stretch into the
fall, the government's point man on the spill warned. The cap will
trap only so much of the oil, and relief wells being drilled won't
be completed until August. Meanwhile, oil will continue to shoot
To Kelcey Forrestier, a 23-year-old biology graduate visiting
Okaloosa Island, Fla., it was already clear Sunday that the spill
and its damage will last long into the future.
"Oil just doesn't go away. Oil doesn't disappear," said
Forrestier, of New Orleans. "It has to go somewhere and it's going
to come to the Gulf beaches."
Lifeguards found a "very minor" set of fingernail-size tar
balls over the weekend on the western edge of the island about 35
miles east of Pensacola, marking the easternmost point oil has been
The spill's harmful environmental effects also appear to have
spread to Texas, with the government saying Sunday that dead, oiled
birds were reported for the first time in that state. A wildlife
report issued Sunday by the government command center in Robert,
La., says two dead birds with oil on them were found in Texas, but
didn't elaborate on the circumstances. Dozens of dead, oiled birds
have been found in other Gulf states, the majority of them in
Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, which
has been monitoring spill, said he hadn't heard about the birds and
that the oil was still 100 miles from the Texas-Louisiana border.
Officials reported Sunday afternoon that a sheen of oil was
spotted about 150 miles west of Tampa, though they did not expect
the slick to reach the western Florida peninsula in the near
BP said Monday that the cost of the response has reached about
$1.25 billion. The company said the figure does not include $360
million for a project to build six sand berms meant to protect
Louisiana's wetlands from spreading oil.
The prospect that the crisis could stretch beyond summer
devastated residents along the Gulf, who are seeing more and
thicker globs of oil appear all along the coast.
The floors in Ruth Dailey's condominium in Gulf Shores, Ala.,
are already smeared with dark blotches of oil, she said, and things
are only going to get worse.
"This is just the beginning," she said. "I have a beachfront
condo for a reason. With this, no one will want to come."
A couple miles away, workers cleaning sand at a state park
finished their work and left their refuse on the beach in the way
of the incoming tide.
"Waves are washing over plastic bags filled with tar and oil.
It's crazy," said Mike Reynolds, a real estate agent and director
of Share The Beach, a turtle conservation group.
Environmental and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich planned to
visit southern Louisiana on Monday to speak to people who say
they've been sickened by dispersants used to break up the oil
At Pensacola Beach, Fla., the turquoise waves also were flecked
with floating balls of tar. Buck Langston, who has been coming to
the beach to collect shells for 38 years, watched as his family
used improvised chopsticks to collect the tar in plastic
"Yesterday it wasn't like this, this heavy," Langston, of
Baton Rouge, La., said Sunday. "I don't know why cleanup crews
aren't out here."
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, overseeing the government's
response to the spill, has expressed similar frustration, ordering
cleanup crews to the Alabama coastline after surveying the scene
from the air. But he acknowledged the relative futility of their
"It's so widespread, and it's intermittent," he told The
Associated Press on Saturday. "That's what's so challenging about
this. Everyone wants certainty. With an oil spill like this, there
Since it was placed over the busted well on Thursday, the cap
has been siphoning an increasing amount of oil. On Saturday, it
funneled about 441,000 gallons to a tanker on the surface, up from
about 250,000 gallons it captured Friday.
But it's not clear how much is still escaping from the well,
which federal authorities have estimated was leaking between
500,000 gallons and 1 million gallons a day. Since the spill began
nearly seven weeks ago, roughly 23 million to 50 million gallons of
oil have leaked into the Gulf.
The inverted funnel-like cap is being closely watched for
whether it can make a serious dent in the flow of new oil. Allen
reserved judgment, saying he didn't want to risk offering false
"This will be well into the fall," he said Sunday on CBS'
"Face the Nation." "This is a siege across the entire Gulf. This
spill is holding everybody hostage, not only economically but
physically. And it has to be attacked on all fronts."