Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

BP Oil Seep Could Spell Trouble for Containment Cap

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

BP Oil Seep Could Spell Trouble for Containment Cap

Article excerpt

The BP oil seep now being witnessed on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, along with conflicting messages from BP and the federal government, spell an uncertain future for the capped well.

The BP oil seep is a sign of possible danger. But the cap on top of BP's busted Gulf of Mexico oil well remains shut tight - for now.

On Monday, the US government announced that it was allowing BP to keep valves on the new cap closed despite worries about the newly- discovered seep near the site. That's a decision that likely will be revisited day-to-day, as federal authorities are still concerned about a worst-case scenario: damage to the sea floor itself.

It's unknown whether the well casing below the seabed has been cracked. If it has, then the cap could cause leaks to bubble out down below - as if it were a plug in a fizzing pop bottle. This would greatly increase the difficulty of stopping the oil flow.

IN PICTURES: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature

That's what the White House wants to avoid. Continued oil flow into August would compound the current environmental disaster, with the November elections looming on the horizon.

"We're going to be watching this very, very closely, as we have been from the beginning," said Carol Browner, former head of the EPA and an environmental adviser to the Obama administration, in a Monday interview on CBS.

No oil has flowed from the top of the damaged wellhead into the Gulf since BP installed the cap and closed it late last week. That's been a bit of rare good news in the long, disappointing struggle against what is likely the worst environmental disaster in US history.

But over the weekend the US and BP seemed at odds over what to do next.

On Saturday, National Incident Commander and Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the top US official on the Gulf response team, said the new cap would eventually be hooked up to pipes to enable oil from the well to be pumped to the surface. …

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