British Petroleum was able to cap one of the three Gulf of Mexico oil leaks on the Deepwater Horizon overnight, officials confirmed to New Orleans' Fox 8 on Wednesday, but the oil giant will still move ahead with a specially built giant concrete-and-steel box designed to siphon the oil away.
Spokesman Curtis Thomas said that the new cap does not necessarily lessen the amount of oil coming out but will help when trying to cap the other two leaks.
A new valve was put on the leak Tuesday night to stop the flow. However, Thomas said 5,000 barrels of oil were still leaking into the Gulf Of Mexico.
"It doesn't lessen the flow, it just simplifies the number of leak points they have to address," Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley said.
The capped leak was more than 800 feet from the blowout preventer, which sits over the well head on the seafloor.
On Wednesday, a barge will haul the 100-ton "box" containment system contraption 50 miles offshore to a spot where a mile-deep gusher from a blown-out undersea well has been spewing at least 210,000 gallons of crude a day into the Gulf for two weeks. BP spokesman John Curry said it would be deployed on the seabed by Thursday.
It's the latest idea engineers from BP are trying after an oil rig the company was operating exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. It sank two days later.
Most of the oil is coming from a leak about 460 feet from the preventer, while a smaller leak is still allowing oil to escape from a crack where the pipe casing bent about 5 feet from the top of the preventer.
Meanwhile, the effort to protect Louisiana coastal wetlands was expected to pick up.
In Plaquemines Parish, officials loaded absorbent boom shortly after dawn to take out to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The barge will be used as a distribution point for local fishermen to lay the boom around sensitive marshes.
Parish President Billy Nungesser said the parish has 24 miles of the boom. Workers in yellow rain suits scrubbed air boats. At a nearby marina, local shrimpers planned to use their boats to put down boom as part of a program BP is running.
In all, about 7,900 people are working to protect the shoreline and wildlife, and some 170 boats are also helping with the cleanup.
A rainbow sheen of oil has reached land in parts of Louisiana, but forecasts showed the oil wasn't expected to come ashore for at least a couple more days.
"It's a gift of a little bit of time. I'm not resting," U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said.
In their worst-case scenario, BP executives told members of a congressional committee that up to 2.5 million gallons a day could spill if the leaks worsened, though it would be more like 1.7 million gallons. In an exploration plan filed with the government in February 2009, BP said it could handle a "worst-case scenario" it described as a leak of 6.8 million gallons per day from an uncontrolled blowout.
Containment boxes have never been tried at this depth — about 5,000 feet — because of the extreme water pressure. If all goes well, the contraption could be fired up early next week to start funneling the oil into a tanker.
"We don't know for sure" whether the equipment will work, said BP spokesman Bill Salvin. "What we do know is that we have done extensive engineering and modeling and we believe this gives us the best chance to contain the oil, and that's very important to us."
The seas calmed Tuesday, allowing more conventional methods to contain the spill to get back on track as businesses and residents kept an eye on the ocean currents, wondering when the sheen washing ashore in places might turn into a heavier coating of oil. Crews put out more containment equipment and repaired some booms damaged in rough weather over the weekend. They also hoped to again try to burn some of the oil on the water's surface, possibly Wednesday.
Chemical dispersants piped 5,000 feet to the main leak have significantly reduced the amount of oil coming to the surface, BP said.
From the air Tuesday, the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion looked similar to a week ago except for the appearance of a massive rig brought in to drill a relief well to shut off the spewing oil. That will take months.
People along the Gulf Coast have spent weeks living with uncertainty, wondering where and when the huge slick might come ashore, ruining their beaches — and their livelihoods.
The anxiety is so acute that some are seeing and smelling oil where there is none. And even though the dead turtles and jellyfish washing ashore along the Gulf of Mexico are clean, and scientists have yet to determine what killed them, many are just sure the flow of crude unleashed by the explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon is the culprit.
The rig was owned by Transocean Ltd. Some of the 115 surviving workers who were aboard when it exploded are suing that company and BP PLC. In lawsuits filed Tuesday, three workers say they were kept floating at sea for more than 10 hours while the rig burned uncontrollably. They are seeking damages.
Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for rig owner Transocean Ltd., defended the company's response, saying 115 workers did get off alive. Two wrongful death suits also have been filed.
While officials worked on cleanup, the long wait took its toll on nerves and incomes.
In Gulf Shores, Ala., the real estate firm Brett/Robinson Vacations sent a note to those renting vacation properties that they would not be penalized for any spill-related cancellations, but urged them not to jump the gun.
"There are many questions and many `what ifs' regarding this event," the message read. "Because changes come about hourly and 30 days is a long way away, we are asking you to wait before canceling your vacation, especially those of you who are scheduled to arrive more than 30 days from today."
There are legitimate concerns, experts say. A second bird found in the slick, a brown pelican, is recovering at a bird rescue center in Louisiana. National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Larry Schweiger says there's no way to know how many birds have been oiled because the slick is so big and so far offshore.
Perdido Key, a barrier island between Pensacola and the Alabama state line with sugar-white sand studded with condominiums, likely would be the first place in Florida affect by the oil spill. Perdido — Spanish for "Lost" — got a sniff Tuesday morning of what may be in store.
"You could smell the smell of it, real heavy petroleum base," said Steve Ownesby, 54, a maintenance man at the Flora-Bama Lounge abutting the state line on the Florida side.
The air cleared later, but Owensby's 28-year-old daughter, Stephanie, who tends bar at the lounge, said some visitors have complained of feeling ill from the fumes.
"It's very sad because I grew up out here," she said. "I remember growing up seeing the white beaches my whole life. Every day I've been going to the beach ... a lot of people are out watching and crying."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.