Even after stuffing the blown-out Gulf of Mexico well with enough mud to pack down the oil, federal officials weren't ready to declare victory over the stubborn spill yet. Neither were many Gulf residents, who have agonized as engineers launched one effort after another to finally quell it.
Now, the tide appears to be turning. BP said Wednesday it was finally able to force the oil back down to its underground reservoir with a slow torrent of heavy mud in an early step toward plugging the well up for good. And the company planned to start on Thursday shoving cement down from pipes attached to ships a mile above the sea.
The news came as a federal report indicated only about a quarter of the spilled oil remains in the Gulf and is degrading quickly, with the rest contained, cleaned up or otherwise gone.
But for the people who lost their livelihoods or still see oil washing up on their shores, the news is little consolation.
"There are still boats out there every day working, finding turtles with oil on them and seeing grass lines with oil in it," said charter boat captain Randy Boggs, of Orange Beach, Ala. "Certainly all the oil isn't accounted for. There are millions of pounds of tar balls and oil on the bottom."