Military helicopters drop sandbags as oil spill cleanup efforts continue off Louisiana
Blackhawk military helicopters began dropping sandbags along the Louisiana coastline Monday, as oil spill cleanup efforts continued.
On the Gulf of Mexico
Black Hawk helicopters peppered Louisiana's barrier islands with 1-ton sacks of sand Monday to bolster the state's crucial wetlands against the epic Gulf of Mexico oil spill — 4 million gallons (15 million liters) and growing.Skip to next paragraph
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At the site of the ruptured well a mile (1.6 kilometer) underwater, a remote-controlled submarine shot chemicals into the maw of the massive leak to dilute the flow, further evidence that BP expects the gusher to keep erupting into the Gulf for weeks or more.
Crews using the deep-sea robot attempted to thin the oil — which is rushing up from the seabed at a pace of about 210,000 gallons (795,000 liters) per day — after getting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, BP PLC officials said.
Two previous tests were done to determine the potential impact on the environment, and the third round of spraying was to last into early Tuesday.
The EPA said the effects of the chemicals were still widely unknown.
BP engineers were casting about after an icelike buildup thwarted their plan to siphon off most of the leak using a 100-ton containment box. They pushed ahead with other potential short-term solutions, including using a smaller box and injecting the leak with junk such as golf balls and pieces of tire to plug it. If it works, the well will be filled with mud and cement and abandoned.
None of those methods has been attempted so deep. Workers were simultaneously drilling a relief well, the solution considered most permanent, but that was expected to take up to three months.
At least 4 million gallons (15.14 million liters) were believed to have leaked since an April 20 drilling rig blast killed 11. If the gusher continues unabated, it would surpass the Exxon Valdez disaster as America's worst spill by June 20. About 11 million gallons (41.6 million liters) leaked in Alaska's Prince William Sound from the tanker in 1989.
The new containment device is much smaller, about 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter, 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighing just under 2 tons, said Doug Suttles, BP PLC chief operating officer. Unlike the bigger box, it will be connected to a drill ship on the surface by a pipe-within-a-pipe when it's lowered, which will allow crews to pump heated water and methanol immediately to prevent the ice buildup.