ON THE GULF OF MEXICO-- A remote-controlled submarine shot a chemical dispersant into the maw of a massive undersea oil leak Monday, further evidence BP expects the gusher to keep erupting into the Gulf of Mexico 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 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 began early Monday and it will last 24 hours.
The EPA said in a statement the effects of the chemicals were still widely unknown.
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BP engineers, casting about after an ice buildup thwarted their plan to siphon off most of the leak using a 100-ton containment box, 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.
However, none of these attempts has been tried so deep — about a mile down. 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 were believed to have leaked since an April 20 drilling rig blast killed 11.
The new containment device is much smaller, about 4 feet in diameter, 5 feet tall and weighing just under two tons, said Doug Suttles, BP PLC chief operating officer.
BP — which is responsible for the cleanup — said Monday the spill has cost it $350 million so far.