After securing a new, tight-fitting cap on top of the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, BP prepared Tuesday to begin tests to see if it will hold and stop fresh oil from polluting the waters for the first time in nearly three months.
The oil giant expects to know within 48 hours if the new cap, which landed Monday after almost three days of painstaking, around-the-clock work a mile below the Gulf's surface, can stanch the flow. The solution is only temporary, but it offers the best hope yet for cutting off the gush of billowing brown oil.
The cap's installation was good news to weary Gulf Coast residents who have warily waited for BP to make good on its promise to clean up the mess. Still, they warned that even if the oil is stopped, the consequences are far from over.
"I think we're going to see oil out in the Gulf of Mexico, roaming around, taking shots at us, for the next year, maybe two," Billy Nungesser, president of Louisiana's oil-stained Plaquemines Parish, said Monday. "If you told me today no more oil was coming ashore, we've still got a massive cleanup ahead."
Starting Tuesday, the cap will be tested and monitored to see if it can withstand pressure from the gushing oil and gas. The tests could last anywhere between six to 48 hours, according to National Incident Commander Thad Allen.